The Paradox of Writing to Get the “Bigots”

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Over the past few posts, I have been discussing how authors such as Frank Yerby, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hurston counter western ideals of beauty, specifically ideals of white beauty. Over the next couple of posts, I want to move back a little and look at W.E.B. Du Bois’ double consciousness in relation to this topic and in relation to Hurston’s “How It Feels to be Colored Me!

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Countering Western Ideals of Beauty in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

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Reading Claude McKay’s Banana Bottom and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God together provides multiple topics to discuss in relation to the two novels. Recently, I wrote about how McKay counters western ideals of beauty within his novel, and today I want to briefly look at how Hurston does the same thing with Janie and with Mrs. Turner.

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Claude McKay’s “Banana Bottom” and William Blake

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In the last post, I wrote some about how Frank Yerby and Claude McKay each challenge western ideals of beauty. Today, I want to continue that discussion by looking at how Bita Plant interrogates these ideals in Banana Bottom, specifically when she looks at William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy” (1789). As Bita looks at herself in the mirror and Marse Arthur’s words–“Only a nigger gal!”–reverberate in her head, she dismisses Arthur’s words and illuminates her self-worth: “For she knew that she was a worthy human being. She knew that she was beautiful.”

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