Publication and Reception History

In Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Zora Neale Hurston introduces the character of John Pearson, a strapping, incredibly handsome young man who has the innate ability to enthrall most people who cross his path. As the story begins with the harsh reality of conflict between Pearson and his step-father Ned Crittenden in conjunction with the affirmation of absence of his biological father, John immediately begins searching for new horizons that present themselves better than his current situation and arguably, he finds them. However, the unquenchable chase within him continues to always lead him to search for something more, which leads to his multiple downfalls throughout the book, and ultimately, his death in the end.  Throughout Pearson’s life, he consistently battles both inwardly and outwardly as he faces the conflict of love and bodily desires, which causes him to betray both the women he has ever loved genuinely and deeply, Lucy Potts and Sally Lovelace. Despite John Pearson’s undeniable weakness for tail-skirts, his empathic preaching ability and irresistible charm make him a character who, despite his multiple mistakes, is unable to be turned on by both the reader and the majority of the characters within the book.

Hurston brilliantly develops many critical elements throughout the story that not only contextualize and color the characters within it but also draw incredible parallels to many of Hurston’s other works and even her own life. Reoccurring themes such as colorism, gender, and religion reassert themselves as staple features, pertinent and relevant to this novel as they have been in so many of Hurston’s others.  Additionally, Hurston’s refined use of dialectical speech and insertion of traditional folk culture and practices only augment the brilliance of this work. Jonah’s Gourd Vine has and will continue to be one of Hurston’s most praised works for generations to come.

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