So Who’s the Gourd Vine?

The Article, “Worm Against the World”, highlights the importance of literature and language within Hurston’s novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine. While I previously paid attention to symbolism and metaphors as they relate to characterization, I had not yet paid attention to the actual importance of language and literature and the movement they created with John Person and Lucy.

Ciuba, speaks on how literature worked both as a force that pulled John and Lucy together as well as one that pushed them apart. Literature allowed John to project his future with Lucy; from first meeting Lucy at a school yard, to evolving from writing Lucy Potts to Lucy Pearson on the chimney, and attempting to pass notes to Lucy on her drawing board, Hurston showcases linguistic connection of these two characters. As their marriage progresses, Hurston plays with the dichotomy of literary internalization of both characters in the marriage. Ironically, something that once tied them together creates what Ciuba calls a “schism’ between them. While Lucy internalizes the teachings of the bible, seen by her references to education and Axe 26,(136) John’s lack of internalization of his teaching is evident by his constant succumbing to cheating and it eventually creates a chasm in their marriage. Hurston shows that despite John’s prospering’s through literature, symbolized through, jobs, schooling, preaching, and eventual mayor position, he is literarily inferior to Lucy because of his inability to incorporate the last step. Hurston brings into question the charisma and maleness in black leadership by exposing to the reader the dependency of John on Lucy for something he can not do. Lucy functions essentially as Johns gourd vine, by protecting him and acting as the brain behind John’s success, a dependency Hurston further emphasizes by highlighting the unraveling of John at the loss of Lucy. John stays unraveled until he comes under the shelter of Sally, who he references as a response to his “prayer for Lucy’s return” (200). The linguistic characterization highlighted by Ciuba made me more aware of how Hurston in many ways, comments on the expectations of black women in the background of black men’s success.

2 thoughts on “So Who’s the Gourd Vine?

  1. Ty, you’ve shown us that this story is clearly sympathetic to Lucy’s position as much as it is to John’s. What kind of protagonist are we to interpret John as? Are his struggles an important commentary on his community during this period, or has Lucy intentionally been made the center of the reader’s sympathy?

  2. It’s really good point you made at the end of this blog post about the expectations of Black women in the background of men’s success. It reminded me of the scene in the story when John is in court again because Hattie wants a divorce. John thinks back at the last time he was in court and Lucy was with him. It says “No fiery little Lucy here, thrusting her fragility between him and trouble.” John was lost, without any witnesses to support him when last time he could count on Lucy be there for him. After she died, it seems like he was desperate to find another strong women to support him and maybe that is why he remarried so quickly.

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