Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston in American Literature

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and early 1930’s was a period of immense African American literary and intellectual activity, centered in Harlem, New York City. During this time many writers emerged, among them Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. Respectively their works “The Gilded Six-Bits” and “Almos’ A Man” are literary reminders of the early South. While attending college in New York, Zora Neale Hurston became part of the Harlem Renaissance’s literati and hung out with the likes of Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, and Jessie Fauset.

She termed the black literati the “niggerati”. She became well known not only for her writings, but for her outspokenness, her distinct way of dress, and her refusal to be ashamed of her culture. Many critics considered her works politically naïve, and the black community was often angered by her representations of blacks, which was not directly associated with the advancement of the race.

Richard Wright began his career in the early thirties publishing poetry and short stories in such magazines as Left Front, Anvil, and New Masses.

Unlike Hurston, Wright was propelled to international fame while still in the prime of his career. His works were acclaimed by numerous noted individuals; often comparing him to the likes of Theodore Drieser and John Steinbeck. Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six-Bits” dialogue is written in heavy dialect. Its purpose is to excite the reader about a foreign culture and reveal elements of it. Hurston uses “storytelling” to fulfill the potential of the dialect’s success.

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For example, Joe recalls his first encounter with Mr. Slemmons: “Ah went down to de sto’ tuh git a box of lye and Ah seen ‘im standin’ on de corner talkin’ to some of de mens, and Ah come on back and went scrubbin’ de floor, and he passed and tipped his hat whilst Ah was scouring the steps. Ah thought Ah never seen him befo’.” Hurston skips scenes, and allows the characters to tell stories of their experiences to reveal the oral tradition that simultaneously complements and complicates the characters.

Hurston furthers this by including folk expressions in the narrative, such as, “way after awhile”, “make his market”, and “mess of flowers”. Religion and other values and beliefs are revealed by metaphors and other expressions. For example, Missy May comforts Joe’s insecurity by saying “God took pattern after a pine tree and made you noble”. This single statement indirectly tells the reader the basic religious background of the characters. Wright also writes his dialogue using dialect, but to a lesser degree than Hurston. This is because Wright writes less dialogue between characters. Wright’s “Almos’ A Man” is the story of a seventeen year old black youth growing up in the South. The short story portrays the young boys yearning for a gun to symbolize his maturation to manhood. Wright is writing of the youth wanting to escape the “everyday life” of the South, and their longing for new environments and experiences. The two writers, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, though considerably similar in their writing techniques were seen differently during their career. While Wrights works were publicly praised, Hurston had to wait until her deathbed to finally become noticed.

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Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston in American Literature. (2022, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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