Zora Neale Hurston's real love affair of her life

May 23, 2016
by: tsaeteurn

Zora Neale Hurston was a magnificent novelist and folklorist. She was one of the attractions of the Harlem Renaissance. Her novels were inspired by her childhood. She was born in Alabama and grew up in Florida specifically in Eatonville where it was historically one of the first black towns of the United States. This is where most of her stories like Their Eyes Were Watching God is based on. Her and her father John Hurston were not close because of his rejection towards her while accepting her older sister. Her mom Lucy Ann Hurston was a teacher. She had passed away in Zora’s early years.

Then Zora went off to college. She studied anthropology and researched in African American Folklore. These things helped shape her novels. Her view on men especially, came not only from her dad but her love life as well.

When researching about Neale’s romantic relationship, it talks about a man named Percival McGuire Punter. Now this is not her only man she had a relationship with but it seemed the most impactful. In her resources of her official website written by Valerie Boyd, it says, “For more than a year, Hurston, a divorcee in her mid-forties, had been dating a man twenty years her junior. A graduate student at Columbia University, his name was Percival McGuire Punter”(Boyd, 2015). Hurston and Punter had an intimate relationship. She calls it "the real love affair of my life."

Punter then requested for Hurston to end her writing career to marry him. To Huston, giving up on her writing career was impossible. They had feuds and some altercations lead to physical violence. It was not critically harmful but it was physical. "For always a blow to my body had infuriated me beyond measure... But somehow, I didn't hate him at all" said Hurston. This feared her knowing that it was a fixation for her. So she parted her ways with Punter to Jamaica and then to Haiti as a way to repress her emotions towards him.

This is where she wrote her book Their Eyes Were Watching God. Punter’s presence did not fade away. She noted "but I tried to embalm all the tenderness of my passion for him in Their Eyes Were Watching God.". The book echoes from Hurston’s life. The character Janie coincides to Hurston’s view and Tea Cake heavily resembles Punter. But Hurston declared that these characters are just influences , not the actual persons in her life.

Researching about Zora Neale Hurston was amazing. She is a beautifully talented author. Her views definitely strengthen women and opened my eyes of people’s mindset at that period of time.

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