‘Drenched In Light’ by Zora Neale Hurston

Hurston, Zora Neale 1924

Drenched In Light by Zora Neale Hurston, 1924

The magic trick:

The character of Isie Watts

Meet Tom Sawyer’s literary cousin: Isie Watts. She has too much imagination for her grandmother’s tastes; too much energy too. She is precocious, stubborn, and brilliant. In only eight pages, Hurston creates this vibrant character, showing the reader at least four vignettes. Isie charms the local, white cattlemen. She, with help of her brother, attempts to shave her grandma’s chin. She steals the new tablecloth in order to employ it as a dress. And she wins the hearts of a festival crowd with her dancing.

The ending is a bit disconcerting, as we see one of the festival-goers seek to adopt Isie as a means of entertainment. It is clear that Isie’s charms will take her places, and perhaps not all of them good. But that theme aside, the character is extraordinarily well-drawn and very memorable. And that’s quite a trick on Hurston’s part.

The selection:

Being the only girl in the family, of course she must wash the dishes, which she did in intervals between frolics with the dogs. She even gave Jake, the puppy, a swim in the dishpan by holding him suspended above the water that reeked of ‘pot likker’ – just high enough so that his feet would be immersed. The deluded puppy swam and swam without ever crossing the pan, much to his annoyance. Hearing Grandma she hurriedly dropped him on the floor, which he tracked-up with his feet wet with dishwater.

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