Hurston uses a lot of folk sayings while writing about black people from the south. Darwin. T. Turner in his book, “ Zora Neale Hurston: The Wandering Minstrel” writes that “Gifted with an ear for dialect, an appreciation of the folktale, a lively imaginationshe interwove these materials in deceptively simple stories which exhibit increasing artistic consciousness (Turner 98-99).”
“As she approached Blue Sink she all but turned back. It was a dark night but the lake shimmered and glowed like phosphorous near the shore. It seemed that figures moved about on the quiet surface. She remembered that folks said Blue Sink the bottomless was Morgan's graveyard. All Africa awoke in her blood.( Hurston 2).” This quotation is an example of the folk style that Hurston employs in her story. First, the lake is described in vivid terms as glowing, bottomless and the graveyard of the person Mrs.Boger going to meet. She goes to meet a Voodoo practitioner, a practice the the slaves brought from Africa. When she sees the lake, Mrs. Boger feels like her ancestors are with her. The sayings of her people resonate in her mind as she looks at the lake. Secondly, Hurston makes a reference to the beliefs and the folk sayings of the people-the bottomless lake being Mr. Morgan’s graveyard. When Mrs. Boger sees the lake, she imagines black figures moving and the lake glowing like phosphorous. Without the history of the lake as told by her people, it is possible she could have seen it differently. Finally, Hurston lets her love for folk language add to the artistic sense of the story. The folk saying becomes pervasive adding to the tone of the story. The reader understands that each object and place is mired with other references. The lake stops being a mere waterbody. It becomes much more sinister through the author’s active imagination. The description of the lake through the eyes of a southern woman who still believes in black magic is brought out beautifully in this story and lends authentication to the period the story is set in.
The novel is set in the early twentieth century where the remnants of slavery and memories from the old life still existed. This is a theme in the short story-a new life in a new country with beliefs going back to another era. When Mrs. Boger sees her daughter cry, her heart becomes cold. “Where once had been warm, pulsing flesh was now cold heavy stone that pulled down, pressing out normal life and bowing the head of her. The woman died, and in that heavy cold stone a tiger, a female tiger-was cut by the chisel of shame (Hurston 2).” Hurston uses the tiger as a reference to how Mrs. Boger feels. There are no tigers in America, they are from Africa. First, this shows that although Mrs. Boger lives in America, her heart and that of her people are still in Africa. Secondly, her new surrounding do nothing to diminish her history. Through folk sayings and allusions, the history of the people still remain intact. Finally, the woman’s pride is also compared to that of a tiger’s death. Wedlock out of pregnancy was a shameful thing in those days and her daughter’s plight moves her as well as hurts her pride. She is vengeful, just as a tiger would do anything to protect its cubs, she sets forth to avenge her daughter’s lover.
Hurston uses folk saying, allusions to Africa and showcases the presence of the history in the people even after years of slavery in a new land.She uses her active imagination and an ear for dialect and folk sayings to make the short story sound authentic of the period the story is set in.
Prologue to the Miller’s Tale
One kind of love emphasized in Prologue to the Miller’s tale is the love of a good marriage. This kind of love appears in the work when Chaucer says, “It is a Synne and eek a greet folye, to apeyren any man, or hym defame, And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame, Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn” (Chaucer 3146-49). His phrase implies love of a good marriage for several reasons. First, this line is a part of the quarrel between the Reeve and the Miller. Miller is aware of the Reeve getting cuckolded in the past and taunts him over it. He asks him why he should be so uncomfortable hearing about it when it is so old. Reeve knows what is coming after this line and asks him to talk about other things. These lines also bring out the unhappiness of Reeve’s marriage. His wife was not happy with him and cuckolds him as a result. The reason that Reeves does not want to hear more about is because he knows what had happened and does not want to pine for what he did not have. Secondly, although he loves a good marriage , he did not get one. He also tells Miller that he cannot sully the name of a woman and use it to defame her husband. The lines indicate that he would love a good marriage and does not want to talk about something that was not good. Finally, even though it was an incident that had happened in the past, he does not want to hear it all over again and asks Miller to talk about other things. He does not want to be reminded of the lack of a good marriage in his life. Chaucer uses sarcasm when talking about marriage . Even though marriage as an institution is seen as an important and sacred in those times, the characters show utter disrespect for the institution. Chaucer talks about the Reeve’s love of a god marriage by highlighting the lack of one in his life.
Another kind of love expressed in Chaucer’s work is the love of a good story. Firstly, this kind of love appears in the Miller’s tale when he says, “That he ne seyde it was a noble storie, and worthy for drawen to memorie (Chaucer 3111-12).” Chaucer gave a lot of importance to literature and considered himself to be a custodian as well a transmitter of the literary heritage. And it is for this reason that he makes a conscious effort to bring back the old stories from memory. Stories of yore die a natural death when they are not being told anymore. It survives only when different generations keep up the oral tradition and this is what Chaucer attempts in his work. Secondly, Chaucer knows the limitations of language but still has to derive meaning from it in his role as the transmitter of literary tradition. At the same time he cherished poetic traditions, he also recognizes the limitation of the form and it is why he calls it a noble story and tries to recall it from his memory. Finally, Chaucer's love for a good story is quite evident in his work. Even though he is aware that his tale is bawdy, he nevertheless goes ahead with it and also asks his readers to move on to another story if they find it too discomforting. Miller's desire to complete the story and the courtier's desire to hear a good tale overwhelms the need for propriety. His love of a good story is evident from the fact that he goes on and says the story of the adultery even when marriage was considered sacrosanct in those times.
There are many kinds of love represented in Chaucer’s, “ Prologue to the Miller’s tale” and the above lines are two examples- love of a good marriage and love of a good story.
Hurston, Neale Zora. “ Black Death”. Theresamartinfshs.files.wordpress.com. N.d Web. 1 Apr 2016.
Turner. T. Darwin. Zora Neale Hurston: The Wandering Minstrel. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press. 1971.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. Prologue to a Miller’s Tale. 1475. Notes.