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Inheritance and Innovation

Author PanWenYi
Tutor LiuSheng
School Liaocheng University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords European Bildungsroman inheritance innovation narrative strategies black female growth
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
Downloads 185
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Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) is regarded as the mother of African-American female literature and is considered the most eminent American black female writer in the twentieth century. Her masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God is her best-known novel. By now this novel has gained universal acceptability for the wonderful representation of the American black’s life and the heroine’s positive and optimistic attitude towards life; and in American colleges, it becomes a compulsory work in the study of black literature and feminism literature. Compared with European Bildungsroman, it is evident that the novel owns not only many conventional features of the genre, but also a lot of innovations to a large extent. Through the comparative method, the thesis analyzes Hurston’s inheritance and innovation of European Bildungsroman on the basis of the theory of European Bildungsroman. This thesis consists of three parts: introduction, body including three chapters and conclusion.The introduction presents Hurston and her works; and summarizes Hurston survey, that is, the researches and studies on Hurston at home and abroad; then, introduces the thesis’s research basis, European Bildungsroman; finally, gives general comments on Hurston’s inheritance and innovation of European Bildungsroman in Their Eyes Were Watching God.Chapter one deals with Hurston’s inheritance of European Bildungsroman in Their Eyes Were Watching God. This chapter examines the features of structure pattern and mentor pattern in European Bildungsroman and explores how Hurston adopts the tradition in her novel. European Bildungsroman is a literary genre which presents the development or formation of a young man. A typical European Bildungsroman has the following features: autobiographical elements; conflict; psychological growth; open ending. Moreover, the mentor of Bildung is one of the important elements of European Bildungsroman, including positive mentors, negative mentors and the natural Manito. The above features of structure pattern and mentor pattern are adequately exemplified in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Chapter two analyzes Hurston’s innovations of European Bildungsroman in Their Eyes Were Watching God including the reasons of innovation, that is, Hurston’s special political background, cultural environment and personal life. This chapter also copes with how Their Eyes Were Watching God innovates European Bildungsroman on the narrative strategies which comprise narrative structure and narrative pattern. As for the former, Hurston adopts the narrative structure of a tale within a tale which functions to represent Janie’s growth in two aspects: on the one hand, she masters the storytelling aesthetic; on the other hand, she alters the traditional storytelling construct. As for the latter, besides the innovation in narrative structure, Hurston blends folk tales into European Bildungsroman. The narrative pattern of folk tales goes like this: the hero exiles himself far away from home for some aim, generally three times adventures in which he experiences all kinds of difficulties, and returns home successfully in the end. Behaving in the same way of the hero in the folk tales, Janie experiences three times marriages, developing into a mature woman with independent consciousness, and goes back to Eatonville. Hurston employs the special narrative structure and narrative pattern to signify Janie’s growth, which is a kind of innovation of European Bildungsroman.Chapter three further analyzes the innovation of European Bildungsroman on the black female growth. European Bildungsroman mostly presents the male growth by male writers; oppositely, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel of black female growth and Hurston’s describing black female growth is a kind of innovation of European Bildungsroman. This chapter clarifies the reasons why Hurston focuses her attention on black female growth, namely her perception of the black women’s plight in their growth. Then it discusses that the black female growth results from female voice regained. The process that the heroine Janie transforms into a mature woman from a passive woman is developing with her regaining voice gradually. So it indicates that only through regaining of voice, the black women can acquire real growth. Janie’s growth is a sort of enlightenment to other black women. Her awakening and her uncompromising spirit encourage the black women on the universal truth that they should learn to resist and self-help in the same plight, so that they can win them the real freedom and self-completeness.Their Eyes Were Watching God not only inherits European Bildungsroman but also makes innovations, especially in narrative strategies and black female growth narrative. These two aspects enlarge the content of European Bildungsroman and reflect Hurston’s excellent artistic creative power. European Bildungsroman offers a new perspective to study Their Eyes Were Watching God and the study further proves Hurston’s important contributions to modern American literature.

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