Arvay’s Epiphany In Hurston’s Seraph On The Suwanee

863 words - 3 pages

Arvay’s Epiphany in Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee

In the middle of Chapter four, we find Jim and Arvay in the middle of a journey to the courthouse; the reader, halfway through the journey from the top of the page encounters an interior journey as Arvay travels within herself. This four-line passage serves as a milestone marking the beginning of the narrative, which is a journey across the landscape of the life of Jim and Arvay’s relationship. The passage begins with “The elements opened above Avery and she arose inside of herself”(57). The first clause of this sentence has a poetic eye focusing on an atmosphere, or an aura rising and expanding around Arvay’s form, perhaps circular, like the break in clouds whereby a ray of sunshine appears, suggesting even further, the halo, or the circle of seraphim as described in the words of the prophets. The coordinating conjunction “and” begins the second clause, implying the synchronous relation between the outer sky change, and the inner event of rising “inside of herself.” In this sense her experiences, her conversation with Jim, her anxieties about her “secret sin,” her religious drive converge and for a brief space are unifying, interlocking, affirming and redeeming. The mystical language employed reveals a kind of “interpenetration.” That this epiphany comes at the moment when she is discussing her own rape with the man that raped her shows the way in which she thinks about her experiences. Also, this passage shows how Jim speaks to her in ways that produce thoughts and feelings that she cannot seem to find words for annunciation. Her mystical language contrasts sharply with Jim’s straightforward sentences, recalling the title of the novel, Seraph on the Sewanee. After reading this passage, beyond any doubt, we have located our seraph.

It is quite possible that Zora Neal Hurston uses this sentence to express a certain physical sensation that Arvay experiences through a heightened consciousness of herself (implying, perhaps, that the mystical envelopment is really sexual transference). Additionally, her religious rationalization that Jim’s spiritual conversion came through the rape, figures her as the Christ-like sacrificial lamb that pays the price she “paid under that mulberry tree.” To convey Arvay’s complexity such as these religious experiences, the narrative voice takes on the consciousness of Arvay. Like light passing through water, at this moment the reader sees the world of the novel, refracted through Arvay’s mind. We can then take the old new criticism term, “unreliable narrator” and apply it to the instances where Hurston’s free indirect discourse represents...

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