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People never understood the writer Zora Neale Hurston in her time. She supported the black culture, but even they did not do that for her. White and black people for equal rejected her style of writings and the ideas that Zora Neale Hurston tried to show in them.
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Poker is about five men sitting around each other in a card game inside a shotgun house. The play starts with Nunkie, the sixth man, playing the.
Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and author. In 1925, shortly before entering Barnard College, Hurston became one of the leaders of the literary renaissance happening in Harlem, producing the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! along with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. This literary movement became the center of the Harlem Renaissance.
Hurston applied her Barnard ethnographic training to document African American folklore in her critically acclaimed book Mules and Men along with fiction Their Eyes Were Watching God and dance, assembling a folk-based performance group that recreated her Southern tableau, with one performance on Broadway.
Hurston was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel to Haiti and conduct research on conjure in 1937. Her work was significant because she was able to break into the secret societies and expose their use of drugs to create the Vodun trance, also a subject of study for fellow dancer/anthropologist Katherine Dunham who was then at the University of Chicago.
In 1954 Hurston was unable to sell her fiction but was assigned by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the small-town murder trial of Ruby McCollum, the prosperous black wife of the local lottery racketeer, who had killed a racist white doctor.
Hurston also contributed to Woman in the Suwanee County Jail, a book by journalist and civil rights advocate William Bradford Huie.
What just happened?!
Then again, I wonder how long it actually took to write it, so thank you, Ms. Hurston, for helpfully including the bracketed notes such as "[Handwritten: last sentence crossed out in pencil]". Also uses "X'es" for "crosses" (as in "the room. ") and--at least in my Kindle version, there's. what, an anti-typo that calls a character "Beckerwood".
And what a great line: "Somebody is goin' to west Hell before midnight!"
Written by: Zora Neale Hurston, Copyrighted in 1931
Published By: Public Domain (Amazon) Kindle Edition
The play was transcribed from the original handwritten manuscript, complete with penciled notations.
Poker! is a very short play that takes place in a dingy front room of a shotgun house in New York. The play centers on a host of characters playing poker and talking a bunch of smack.
Aunt Dilsey comes in and tells them they are all going to go to hell for gamblin and carryin on. While she is talking the poker players are pulling aces out of their sleeves, vest pockets, and shoes.
More then one player ends up with four (4) aces and they argue. Guns come out and the shooting starts.
In the end, Aunt Dilsey returns and observes the bloodshed. She says, They wouldn t lissen -- It sure is goin to be a whole lot tougher in hell now!
Zora Neale Hurston was an African-American woman, born in 1891. During the time the play was written she lived in Westfield, New Jersey, a short distance from New York City. My assumption is that the play s setting is Harlem, in 1931 at the tail-end of the Depression and the Harlem Renaissance.
This was a dispirit time and the poker players were probably disheartened men. They apparently thought nothing about cheating to get money. Everyone can not have four (4) aces. In the end it was everyone s loss.
Hurston a trained anthropologist uses the colloquial language of the day, in the play. She is writing about a class of people who are different from her background. I am not convinced that she really understands the people she is writing about. Further, I question whether gender had any influence in her portrayal of men playing poker.
I gave this play 2.5 stars
The play had the makings to be a really good piece, but it wasn't long enough to really get what was going on. This was literally a quick read. You could literally read it in 5 minutes or less if you wanted to.
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First Time For Everything
This was a very nice and entertaining short play to read. It was actually the first time I'd actually read one outside of Shakespeare and a few others that I read as school assignments. I really enjoyed this and I look forward to reading more.
It's not as tidied up and tight as some of her other works. For the modern reader, it feels like the same rise in action and moments as Poof!. It's a one act play that highlights the limits to which one will go when desperate for money --even with one's friends. While it is not a 4 star in the story, I think it deserves that extra star because it lets us peak under the lid of Hurston's working mind.
It's not as rich as some of her Eatonville works, especially compared to the "gambling" scenes in them (checkers and cards). That said, those scenes are often far more wholesome as they take place in the country setting and have much lower stakes. Take de Turkey and de Law's card playing scene, there is showboating and even a gun at the table, but the setting and tension are completely different --the gun is for hunting, the Great Depression has seemingly not touched Eatonville as it has Harlem (the location for this story), and the people at the table rib each other but they know and like each other. Due to the setting and it's limited depth, we also don't know the characters as well as we do those in her more established Eatonville stories. So, we can only take them at their limited words in this one instance; indeed, the other characters don't seem as well acquainted with each other either --there is no winking, nudging, etc from the stage directions. These are neighbors by proximity rather than feeling and the card game is seriously for the money --money that each will not feel bad getting from another man in an equally cash strapped scenario.
Of course, there are still really amusing highlights. I particularly like when Aunt Dilsey comes out and tells them all:
"If you don't stop this card playin', all of you all goin' to die and go to Hell."
With that amusing foreshadow, of course she was right.
It's also pretty amusing to see on stage someone literally bring a knife to a gun fight. There is this escalation in anger and disbelief that their fellow man would cheat at cards (never mind that they also cheated). Hurston takes the time to mock how ridiculous these men are for both gambling when they can't afford to and for all cheating with the same high card (aces) in such a blatant way.
It's Hurston, so of course, the living colloquial language is present and rich. The LOC preserved her notes to herself and you can see that even with some over the top expressions, there are sections where ZNH pulls back and retracts sections. She slims it down or expands to express a specific feeling. Nunkie gets that long card speech to showboat, but just before that longer speech this section is edited:
"I plays the piano and Gawd knows I plays the devil.
I'm Uncle Bob with a wooden leg!"
Nunkie is a showboat, a showman on the piano because he enjoys the attention. Even so, ZNH thinks that wooden leg joke is just a toe too far over the line with his silliness, especially that close to a loud, boisterous speech about cards.
Poker is a play that was written around the 1930s. The Play was written by Hurston an African American woman and a trained anthropologist. Around the time she wrote the play, she was living in a town near New York. The play is set in a shotgun house in New York.
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It revolves around a group of men who are playing poker. The play opens with Nunkie playing the piano. He is then called over by Tush to join in the poker game. Nunkie seems to be the most outspoken of them all and dominates most of the conversation.
At one time, he likens a succession of cards to events in his life. When the men are playing cards, Aunt Dilsey enters the room and takes a moment to express her disapproval of the poker game. She then tells the men that if they do not stop it, they will all go to hell for it (Hurston 1).
While she is speaking, the men are pulling out aces they have hidden in their sleeves. Hell breaks loose when Sack turns up four aces and a king and claims to have won the game. Several of them turn up other aces of their own and it then becomes clear that this has not been a fair game.
The commotion ends up in a shooting that wakes up Aunt Dilsey. After witnessing the bloodshed, she laments that they did not listen to her. This play is reflective of the cultural context of the time in many ways.
During the time this play was authored, America was going through the great depression. This was a time when money was hard to get. This is probably why almost all these men were prepared to do anything for money.
Even though the poker game was supposed to be a simple affair, several men came with hidden aces just so they can outsmart their counterparts. They do this without any emotional difficulty as portrayed by their normal conversation.
During the time of the great depression, many Americans could barely afford food (Goldston 5). Any extra dollar earned was a welcome relief. These men were not leaving this eventuality to mere luck. This is why they all come prepared not to lose any of their hard-earned cash.
The play was most likely set in Harlem New York. This neighborhood was predominantly an African American neighborhood at the time. It was also a crime hub and that is why most of these men carried concealed weapons. The weapons are for either protection or perpetration of crime.
Nunkie implies in his conversation that his pretty Mama wants to cut his throat (Hurston 1). This further indicates that violence is a common occurrence in this neighborhood. Even to date, Harlem New York still has high instances of crime and violence.
The portrayal of men in this play is undoubtedly negative. The author of this play was a woman born in 1891. By the 1930s, the tensions between men and women had taken several dimensions. First, women used to be paid lower wages than men were, and for the same amount of work (DuBois 26).
In addition, the society was largely dominated by men with women having little to no say when it came to family affairs. Finally, during this civil rights era most African American men were heavily burdened therefore seeking solace in drinking and gambling dens.
This did not sit well with the African American women who had to stay at home and wait for a share of the meager earnings the men made. These tensions may be the reason for the negative portrayal of men by the woman playwright.
She probably felt that even though women knew better, men did not take time to listen to them. When Aunt Dilsey tells the men to stop playing poker, they reply by telling her to go back to sleep and get some rest (Hurston 1). This implies that the women were to get out of men s way when they did their business.
The language used by the characters in the play is colloquial. This language also passed as the slang of the day. It was associated with the lower class and uneducated members of the society. This class of people was associated with poverty, ignorance, crime, and violence.
The event at the end of the play where one of the poker players is shot is itself another crime. The smack talk used throughout the play lacks any substance neither does it address any tangible issues. Just from their language, one can be able to assign these men a social class.
The author was herself an educated woman therefore; one does not expect her to have an in-depth understanding of
This play was set in the 1930s and it revolves around the culture of African Americans at the time. It is also influenced by several cultural attributes of the time. These attributes can be witnessed throughout the play.
DuBois, Carol. Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1997. Print.
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