Zora Neale Hurston – Spunk

Spunk is a story of Zora Neale Hurston that revolves around a love triangle. Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist and anthropologist during her lifetime in the years 1891 to 1960. She had four novels and published more than 50 short memories on various issues in the African-American style of literature. The story, Spunk entails three major characters, two of whom are married and the other one has an affair with the married woman. The married woman’s name is Lena and her husband is Joe. Spunk is the 1/3 one in the love triangle and he is so confident in his personal capabilities that he believed he may want to do just about anything. Spunk killed Joe so that he could have his wife but his life took a drastic turn. Spunk started seeing the ghost of Joe in his day-to-day activities and was always afraid. The climax of the story is the death of Spunk when he fell onto a saw while at work. Spunk died amid cries that Joe’s ghost had pushed him onto the running saw.

Describe the central character(s) in the story and describe characters to the main idea

The central story’s central characters are Joe, Lena and Spunk. The three were in a complex love triangle that ultimately led to the death of Joe and Spunk from his superstitions. Spunk was a confident man filled with life. He was never afraid to take chances and had done acts of courage at his workplace. During the discussion between Thomas and Elijah at a storefront, one man describes that Spunk had at one time operated the circle-saw at his place of work after the previous operator died while operating it.

“But that’s one thing Ah likes about Spunk Banks—he ain’t skeered of nothin‘ on God’s green footstool—nothin’! He rides that log down at saw-mill jus‘ like he struts ’round wid another man’s wife—jus‘ don’t give a kitty. When Tes’ Miller got cut to giblets on that circle-saw, Spunk steps right up and starts ridin’. The rest of us was skeered to go near it.” (Roses et al, pg 233)

Joe was a timid man who was not confident in his deeds and eve feared that Spunk would lure Lena into breaking up with him. The main idea of the story is about the intrigues of the three characters with their love triangle among other themes such as cowardice and superstitions.

Describe the central conflict in the story and its relationship to the central idea.

The central conflict in the story is the fight for love. Spunk and Joe fought for the love of Lena Kanty. Lena was married to Joe who Spunk considered an inferior and weak man who did not deserve to marry Lena. For this reason, Spunk started showing affection to Lena and the two eventually started an affair. Lena is temptress and she is the reason for the conflict’s existence. Spunk killed Joe but won the murder case claiming that he killed Joe while defending himself.

“Clear case of self-defense, the trial was a short one, and Spunk walked out of the court house to freedom again. He could work again, ride the dangerous log-carriage that fed the singing, snarling, biting, circle-saw; he could stroll the soft dark lanes with his guitar. He was free to roam the woods again; he was free to return to Lena” (Locke, pg. 108).

This conflict is the basis of the central idea of the story that revolves around the love triangle and themes such as karma and cowardice.

Describe the setting and its relationship to the central idea- both physical and cultural

The story is set up in a rural village in Florida. Spunk is rich in dialogue and the thick vernacular typical to the south is used by the characters to communicate. This setting is very similar to the actual Florida villages and helps the story to develop its dialect and culture specific to the period when it was written.

“Thass a fact,”went on Walter. “Lookit whut he done took a razor an‘ went out to fight a man he knowed toted a gun an’ wuz a crack shot, too; ‘nother thing Joe wuz skeered of Spunk, skeered plumb stiff! But he went jes’ the same. It took him a long time to get his nerve up. ‘Tain’t nothin’ for Spunk to fight when he ain’t had” (Locke, pg. 109).

The setting further develops the central idea of the love triangle by using statements and sayings that are common jargons in the culture of Florida pertaining to love and relationships (Hurston, pg. 25).

Identify two language devices and connect them to the central idea.

Personification is employed in the story where Spunk went out to shoot the bobcat but the bobcat stood on two of its legs and stared at him (Locke, pg. 109). The bobcat is assigned human characteristics; staring and standing on two limbs.

Symbolism is evident in the play with bobcat being black. Black color is associated with dark forces and death while white color is associated with peace and goodwill. The bobcat circling Spunk and Lena’s house was black and symbolized the death that later caught up with Spunk in his place of work (Hurston, pg. 19).

The above discussion explores four major elements in the development of the central idea in Spunk. The story is rich in literature content, themes and language devices that allow the author, Zola Nearle Hurston to develop the central idea of love in the story. Spunk killed Joe to be happily in love with Lena but Karma caught up with him. Their love triangle led to the tragic demise of the two men leaving the temptress Lena single and ready to be married by another man.

Works Cited

Hurston, Zora N. Spunk. Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2004. Print.

Locke, Alain L. R. The New Negro. Martino Fine Books, 2015. Print.

Roses, Lorraine E, and Ruth E. Randolph. Harlem’s Glory: Black Women Writing, 1900-1950. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997. Print.

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