“She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to the tiniest branch creaming in very blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!” (Eyes 11)
“Ah see whut it is. You doubted me ‘bout de money. Though Ah had done took it and gone. Ah don’t blame yuh but it wasn’t lak you think. De girl baby ain’t born and her mama is dead, dat can git me tuh spend our money on her. Ah told yo’ before dat you got de keys tuh de kingdom. You can depend on dat.” (121)
The contrast between the narration and the dialogue in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (hereafter Eyes) is jarring. The novel is perhaps most remarkable because of this mixture of Standard English with African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and it’s a contrast that Hurston clearly intends to highlight. She draws on her own anthropological background to create a novel that reflects what is, in her eyes, an authentic black experience. She carefully employs respellings and alternate grammatical structures that are indicative of African American Vernacular English, but her use of a black dialect has resulted in significant criticism. Despite this criticism, I argue that this dialect is an integral part of the novel. Merely reading the dialect, however, is not sufficient to fully appreciate its significance. In order to fully appreciate the dialogue, the characters’ words must be heard.