Analysis on Zora Neale Hurston’s “I Get Born”

Published 19 Sep 2017

There are two important statements that the reader can get from Hurston’s story: first is about being born a woman in a male-preferred environment and second: the unusual character of ladies spending so much time out of the house. The first statement is formed due to the strong character portrayal of the father as a carpenter who spent more time from home doing some labor and building business. The interesting point here is the father’s hope that Hurston would be born a male, not the female she became. This speaks of an all-pervading social stigma or “forces” that having more sons is convenient for the family, therefore easier for a human group’s survival. The social attitude of preferring more male offspring implies that more physical work is necessary to feed the family, such that the reader could only imagine backbreaking work to be existent in a farming neighborhood. Hurston may have lived in this backbreaking environment when she was born, where the only known labor aside from housekeeping is the carpentry (as she knew about her dad) or agriculture.

As I observe my contemporary U.S. society in the 21st century, the attitude of wishing for fewer daughters sounds more dangerous to mankind as the years go by, unless Americans think like the Chinese did. The Confucian Chinese family illuminates a strong example of a society that hates more daughters, such that most fathers kill their baby girls as soon as they are born. This is because they perceive females as a baggage to the family’s survival; a liability who cannot be trusted with accomplishing the heavy labor demanded in a poor agricultural country. The family works on a simple economy which says that if there are fewer men to work the field, they will go hungry. No one can imagine that women can plow the field without machines, build a strong house, cook food and care for kids all at the same time. Fortunately, this backward thought will not appeal to Americans anymore, who now perceive women as equally strong and intelligent as men in any field. Women nowadays are seen as dynamic creatures that transcend the role of childrearing. They are the dainty humans who bravely go beyond the comfort of housekeeping to take jobs in the military, the political scene and business, all that a man can do. If ever this attitude of “one girl is enough” still exists, it could still be prevalent in a few ultraconservative states in the South whose economies were always based on agriculture and heavy manual labor. I can also draw a simple conclusion from this: that most U.S. states have diversified their economies and became less dependent on agriculture, such that having more working women became tolerable and the likes of Hurston can be socially acceptable.

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But Hurston was trapped in her own agricultural era, maybe not of her own choosing. The story, written in the first person view, effectively takes the reader to look through her eyes own eyes as the events around her birth and baby steps transpired. Just imagining the environment of the story and its people makes one feel how physically hard you need to work to feed one’s family. Actually, empathizing with Hurston’s father is very effective even though his anti-daughter views may be wrong nowadays. But of the reader includes the life of the aunt, the mother etc. in his/her empathy, one would also see that wide tracks of land are developed physically, that dust is everywhere and women were normally working in the house. The author made a very unusual leap when she extended her baby steps to “wandering to go places”, that her mother found it alarming for a woman to wander frequently. Yet Hurston was a woman ahead of her time. Long before the present age of “women going places”, she was taking her feet for an unstoppable mileage into anywhere she wanted to go. This point importantly tells of the unusual female mobility during that era, that Hurston was making futuristic moves of emulating her mobile working father. Her “urge to go places”, as she said was a pioneering move that left dust in its wake. The dust symbolizes the pallor that ordinary people had while seeing an unusually mobile woman in that era.


  • Hurston, ZN. I Get Born. Dust Tracks in a Road. 1942.
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