Zora Neale Hurston, a Harlem Renaissance African American female writer in the 1920s, grew up at Eatonville, an all-black community in Florida. Her three-act play De Turkey and De Law (1930), set in Eatonville, is the writer’s recollection of her childhood. Eatonville folks in the play are talk masters. They everyday congregate on the front porch of Joe Clarke’s general store. Loading their mouths with various repertoires of talks, these human weapons are ready to fire. In no time, the porch turns into a verbal battlefield. Hinted from the war metaphors, the everyday verbal contestation on the front porch represents the Eatonville townspeople’s survival strategy as black and individual. At the same time, the shrewd oratorical skill practiced in the contestation reflects the playwright’s assertive individualism or her survival strategy as a black and a woman. It is worth noting that such verbal contestation functions as driving force for humor and comic elements prevalent in the play and, therefore, reveal independently or collaboratively the town folks’ will for survival and way of affirming life. Throughout De Turkey and De Law are discovered recurring types of verbal contestation. Among them, two remarkable patterns are 1) talk relay and 2) lying contest. This paper examines the dynamism within which Eatonville folks’ will for survival mingle with the mentioned verbal efforts and develops into an affirmative vision of life.
Jungman Park, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea
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