The Inside Search
In contrast to everybody about me, I was not afraid of snakes? They fascinated me in a way which I still cannot explain. I got no pleasure from their death.
I do not know when the vivsions began. certainly I was not more than seven years old, but I remember the first coming very distinctly. My brother Joel and I had made a hen take an egg back and been caught as we turned the hen loose. We knew we were in for it and decided to scatter until things cooled off a bit. He hid out in the barn, but I combined discretion wtih pleasure and ran clear off the place. Mr Linsay’s house was vacant for a spell. He was a neighbor who was off working somewhere at the time. I had not thought of
stopping there when I set out, but I saw a big raisin lying on the porch and stopped to eat it. There was some cool shade on the porch, so I sat down, and soon I was asleep in a strange way. Like clearcut stereopticon slides, I saw twelve scenes flash before me, each one held until I had seen it well in every detail, and then be replaced by another. There was no continuity as in an average dream. Just disconected scene after scene with blank spaces in between. I knew that they were all true, a preview of things to come, and my
soul writhed in agony and shrunk away. But I knew that there was no shrinking. These things had to be. I did not wake up when the last one flickered and vanished, I merely sat up and saw the Methodist Church, the line of moss-draped oaks, and our strawberry patch stretching off to the left.
So when I left the porch, I left a great deal behind me. I was weighed down with a power I did not want. I had knowledge before its time. I knew my fate. I knew that I would be an orphan and homeless. I knew that while I was still helpless, that the comforting circle of my family would be broken, and that I would have to wander cold and friendless until I had served my time. I would stand beside a dark pool of water and see a huge fish move slowly away at a time when I would be somehow in the depth of despair. I would hurry to
catch a train, with doubts and fears driving me and seek solace in a place and fail to find it when I arrived, then cross many tracks to board the train again. I knew that a house, a shotgun-built house that needed a new coat of white paint, held torture for me, but I must go. I saw deep love betrayed, but I must feel and know it. There was no turning back. And last of all, I would come to a big house. Two women waited there for me. I could not se their face, but I knew one to be young and one to be old. One of them was arranging
some queer-shaped flowers such as I had never seen When I had come to see these women, then I would be at the end of my pilgrimage, but not the end of my life. Then I would know peace and love and what goes with those things, and not before.
These visions would return at irregular intervals. SOmetimes two or three nights running. Sometimes weeks and months apart. I had no warning. I went to bed and they came. The details were always the same, except in the last picture. Once or twice I saw the old faceless woman standing outdoors beside a tall plant with that same off-shape white flower. She turned suddenly from it to welcome me. I knew what was going on in the
house without going in, it was all so familiar to me.
I never told anyone aorund me about these strange things. It was too different. They would laugh me off as a story-teller. Besides, I had a feeling of difference from my fellow men, and I did not want it to be found out. Oh, how I cried out to be just as everybody else! But the voice said No. I must go where O was sent. The weight of the commandment laid heavy and made me moody at times. When I was an ordinary child, with no knowledge of things but the life about me, I was reasonable happy. I would hope that the call would never come again. But even as I hoped I knew that the cup meant for
my lips would not pass. I must drink the bitter drink. I studied people all around me, searching dor someone to fend it off. But I was told inside myself that there was no one. It gave me a feeling of terrible aloneness. I stood in a world of vanished communion with my kind, which is worse than if it had never been. Nothing is so desolate as a place where life has been and gone. I stood on a soundless island in a tideless sea.
Time was to prove the truth of my visions, for one by one the came to pass. As soon as one by one and took consolation in the fat that one more station was past, thus bringing me neare the end of my trials, and nearer to the big white house, with kind women and the strange white flowers.
Years later, after the last one had come and gone, I read a sentence or a paragraph now and then in the columns of O.O. McIntyre which perhaps held no special meaning for the millions who read him, but in wich I could see through those slight revelations that he had similar experiences. Kipling knew the feeling for himself, for he wrote of it very definitely in
his Plain Tales from the Hills. So I took comfort in knowing that they were fellow pilgrims on my strange road.
I consider that my real chilhood ended with the coming of the pronouncements. True, I played, fought and studied with other children, but always I stood apart within. Often I was in some lonesome wilderness, suffering strange things and agonies while other children in
the same yard played without a care? I asked myself why me? Why? Why?
A cosmic loneliness was my shadow. Nothing and nobody around me really touched me. It is one of the blessings of this world that few people see visions and dream dreams.
Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891– January 28, 1960) was an Americanfolklorist, anthropologist, and author. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
I Love Myself When I Am Laughing… And Then Again: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader
The most prolific African-American woman author from 1920 to 1950, Hurston was praised for her writing and condemned for her independence, arrogance, and audaciousness. This unique anthology, with 14 superb examples of her fiction, journalism, folklore, and autobiography, rightfully establishes her as the intellectual and spiritual leader of the next generation of black writers. In addition to six essays and short stories, the collection includes excerpts from Dust Tracks on the Road; Mules and Me; Tell My Horse; Jonah’s Gourd Vine; Moses, Man of the Mountain; and Their Eyes Were Watching God. The original commentary by Alice Walker and Mary Helen Washington, two African-American writers in the forefront of the Hurston revival, provide illuminating insights into Hurston-the writer, the person-as well as into American social and cultural history.
Autobiography Folklore and Reportage
From Dust Tracks on a Road
From Mules and Men
From Tell My Horse
Essays and Articles
How It Feels to Be Colored Me
The Pet Negro System
My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience
FictionThe Eatonville Anthology
From Jonahs Gourd Vine
The Gilded SixBits
From Moses Man of the MountainFrom Their Eyes Were Watching GodAfterword
Crazy for This Democracy
What White Publishers Wont Print
In addition to new editions of her work being published after a revival of interest in her in 1975, her manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives.
Zora is my name (documentary)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (novel)
- “Journey’s End” (Negro World, 1922), poetry
- “Night” (Negro World, 1922), poetry
- “Passion” (Negro World, 1922), poetry
- Color Struck (Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, 1925), play
- “Sweat” (1926), short story
- “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928), essay
- “Hoodoo in America” (1931) in The Journal of American Folklore
- “The Gilded Six-Bits” (1933), short story
- Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934), novel
- Mules and Men (1935), non-fiction
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), novel
- Tell My Horse (1938), non-fiction
- Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), novel
- Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), autobiography
- Seraph on the Suwanee (1948), novel
- “What White Publishers Won’t Print” (Negro Digest, 1950)
- I Love Myself When I Am Laughing…and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader(Alice Walker, ed.) (1979)
- The Sanctified Church (1981)
- Spunk: Selected Stories (1985)
- Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life (play, with Langston Hughes; edited with introductions by George Houston Bass and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) (1991)
- The Complete Stories (introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke) (1995)
- Novels & Stories: Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Moses, Man of the Mountain, Seraph on the Suwanee, Selected Stories (Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-0-940450-83-7
- Folklore, Memoirs, & Other Writings: Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Dust Tracks on a Road, Selected Articles (Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-0-940450-84-4
- Barracoon (1999)
- Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States (2001)
- Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (2003)
- Collected Plays (2008)