Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Hurston+Descartes+Frued=Roosters and Hens

From the very first Hurston establishes the world of Polk County as absurdist when she makes the hens and rooster speak. From the topic of their discussion (no shoes for the Hen’s feet) to its very nature (it had a sensibility completely in line with the boisterous Polk county, already exhibited), the hens and rooster function as a reflection of Hurston’s Polk County. Through her inclusion of them, one may note an amalgamation of Cartesian as well as Freudian theories of humor.
Descartes states that modest banter “useful in reproving vices” is a quality that pertains to the well disposed man and “gives evidence of the gaiety of his soul and tranquility of his temper, which are characteristic marks of virtue.” The personification of hens to serve as a lense through which to view the residents of Polk county could be considered a quasi form of Cartesian banter. The discrepancies between the two, would be, it seems, that Descartes appeared to consider banter as a means of improving others; something of a moral arbitrator that can be used to shame others into “correct” behaviour. Hurston, although the hens and rooster, as well as the play as a whole, serves rather as something of an amused, engaged spectator, rather than a moralistic dissenter. She seeks to point out the absurdity and chide it but it would be wrong to accuse Hurston of trying to correct the idiosyncrasies of the south she so lovingly rendered.
Following Freud’s theory of, specifically humor, one may note Hurston’s use of personification

as a narrative tool, a means of embedding her characters further within in their context. He states

essentially that humor makes the world less scary, something to jest about. So too does Hurston in

this moment with the hens and rooster. The sensibility of the world delineated through the hens’

ceaseless cries for shoes and the rooster’s incessant request for a kiss, as something a little ridiculous

and decidedly allegorical. She seeks to depict the laughter that can be found in a world that was

typically, and institutionally, very dark and cruel toward people of color.

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