Escape Motif in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Jonah’s Gourd Vine”
- Lilly Fernandes
The escape motif is especially prominent in African American literature. A pattern of escape is an integral part of American culture, as seen in the tradition of moving on to a new territory or frontier when life becomes difficult or burdensome. Jonah’s Gourd Vine is a disguised biography of the parents of Zora Neale Hurston; however, the names of the parents are hardly mentioned in the novel and are kept under a veil of ignorance by the author. John's escape from a society he viewed as materialistic and inequitable exemplified the idea of solitude and at the same time exemplified the African American spirit of independence and self-sufficiency. John's poetic faculties are part of the aesthetic matrix of black fold culture. Hurston surrounds her character with a world of metaphor and image that makes John's ability only heightened example of a native aesthetic. If it is the language making faculty that defines him that is what also defines his world. John is a man who seeks beauty, lives intensely each moment, and loves language as an end in itself. Moreover, he lives this way because his culture honours an improvisational oral art by escaping from the facets of reality.
The escape motif in Hurston’s novel hides behind various themes lying in the background or as a base of Jonah’s Gourd Vine. Of the many themes, the most important place is given to the issue of slavery. The setting of the novel is in the beginning of the twentieth century where those days are portrayed in which slavery had already begun and started ruling especially in the areas of South. The outlined escape motif impresses the spirit of every reader by making them realize the beast and the angel which live together in one person.
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- Alice DingEditorial Assistant