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Dylan Morrongiello
May 11, 2015
CL 323: Self-Revelation in Womens Writing

The Childhoods of Hurston and Farrokhzad


Zora Neale Hurston and Forugh Farrokhzad have similar relations to their
respective literary traditions. They differentiated themselves from their more
traditional peers both because of their gender and Forughs non-participation in
Muslim and Zoras embracing of her African ancestry. Hurston and Farrokhzad
demonstrated very similar subject interests, due to their modernist perceptions and
separation from their dominant cultures. Both authors presented a great deal of selfrevelation in their literary works. Hurstons self-revelation shows through her
knowledge of Florida culture and her depth of experience, whereas Farrokhzads
self-revelation appears in her frank descriptions of her actions, thoughts, and
feelings. Within this revelation, Hurston and Farrokhzad both note a strong influence
of their childhoods on their adult life and their writings.
Many factors influenced Zora and Forughs childhoods. One important
difference is their financial upbringing and the environment provided by their
families, specifically Hurston and Farrokhzads relations to their mothers. Several
intrinsic characteristics also contributed to their childhood years. Both writers
exhibited natural inquisitiveness in their attitude and demeanor, expressed interests
that were contradictory to the mainstream cultures to which they belonged, and
possessed feelings of isolation and loneliness. Though these variables did not

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always positively influence the writers childhoods, they did mold a childhood that led
to an adulthood characterized by significant literary achievement.
A major difference between Hurston and Farrokhzads childhoods is their
financial circumstances. Hurston grew up in the town of Eatonville, Florida, which is
located approximately 5 miles outside of Orlando. Eatonville was the first
incorporated black community in Florida. In her childhood, Zora was relatively
uneducated and very poor, but was very much immersed in black life, which she
reveals in her writing. When Zora was sixteen, she joined a traveling Gilbert and
Sullivan theatre company to be able to support herself after her mothers death. In
return, the mother of the woman for whom she worked arranged for her to attend
high school at Morgan Academy in Baltimore, which enabled her to later attend
Howard University and Barnard College to study anthropology.
Forugh, on the other hand, was born in Tehran, Iran, into a middle-class
family and her father ensured she was absorbed in education from a young age.
Forughs father had a personal library and taught Forugh to read before she was old
enough to attend school. It was because of this that Forugh developed a love of
literature, which is particularly unusual in a society where most women are illiterate.
After finishing the ninth grade, Forugh left high school to attend a technical school
where she studied dressmaking and painting. Forugh felt that writing poetry became
more natural for her in this discipline.
Both Hurston and Farrokhzad had rather close relationships with their
mothers. However, their mothers treated their daughters very differently. Zoras
mother, Lucy Potts strongly encouraged Zora to be creative. In her autobiography,

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Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston recalls that her mother would always encourage
her children to jump at de sun. Unlike black women of the time, Lucy Potts
possessed a voice and was herself contrary to the gender expectations set by her
society. At the time of her death, Lucy had specifically requested that Zora ensure
her pillow does not get turned over when she dies. Though Hurston was ultimately
unable to fulfill her mothers wishes, this instance shows the will power possessed
by Lucy in her lifetime.
Forughs mother Turan Vaziri Tabar was much more rigid and succumbed to
the gender roles present in Iranian society. Forughs sister Puran described their
mother as a slave to rules and regulations. She describes a moment in Forughs
childhood when her mother berated her after she showed her friends her New
Years Eve outfit, which is an act against Iranian culture. Unlike Zoras mother,
Forughs mother believed her daughter should conform to her cultures expectations
and she imposed her societys gender roles on her. She sought to mold Forugh and
her other daughter into ideal Iranian women that are subservient and loyal to their
men, whereas Lucy Potts sought to give Zora the independent voice that she could
never have herself.
Spiritual independence and a sense of natural inquisitiveness were traits that
characterized Hurston and Farrokhzads childhoods. Hurston wrote in-depth about
her inquisitiveness in her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road. She writes that she
naturally picked up the reflections of life with her own instruments and absorbed
what she gathered according to her own experience. Zora also possesses a very
fanciful imagination. She explains that she had many imaginary friends as a child,

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and turned inanimate objects into her friends and playthings, such as Miss Corn-Cob
and Reverend Door Knob. When these inanimate objects ceased to commune with
Zora like real men, her imagination shifted to actual men. She tells a story of a
simple man, Mr. Pendir, who lived by himself in Lake Belle, whom Zora turned into
an alligator at night for her own amusement. In her autobiography, she also tells the
story of how she thought the moon was her own special playmate, and how she
became very jealous and upset when a friend told her that the moon was also her
playmate. This attitude and sense of imagination never quite left her in her
adulthood. Zora wrote her novels with a sense of understanding created by her own
influence of experience. This appears most predominantly in Seraph on the
Suwanee, in which Hurston tells the story of a Florida white cracker culture. Her
descriptions of shrimping, the turpentine industry, and the Floridian fauna show her
immense knowledge derived from anthropological experience.
Forugh Farrokhzad also possessed a similar natural inquisitiveness.
However, opposed to Hurston, this inquisitiveness was present as a sense of
instinct. Forughs life closely resonated with nature, so many of her ideas and her
literal development occurred with a natural progression. In her poem Another Birth,
Farrokhzad describes her childhood nature as one who plants their hands in the
garden. Naturally, Forugh was a rebellious child and her sense of instinct led her to
the alley with the boys, in which she was blown away by her first marriage. By the
time she was sixteen, her independent spirit began to strike acquaintances with
boys in her neighborhood, and she married her distant relative Parviz Shapur, after
much insistence by Forugh, when she was sixteen.

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In their childhoods, both Hurston and Farrokhzad expressed interests and


behaviors that did not conform to their cultures pre-conceived gender norms. In her
autobiography Dust Tracks on the Road, Hurston describes many moments of her
childhood in which she exhibited this sort of behavior. Zora was not only a naturally
inquisitive child. She was also very insistent. In her childhood, Hurston sought to
create a unique identity for herself. She was not able to simply conform to any belief
that was presented to her without questioning it.
Farrokhzads had an intense sexual interest in her childhood. As a child and
as an adolescent, she was naturally curious about her body. She writes in an early
poem entitled Awareness about how her body, on its first day of adolescence,
began to open in innocent amazement. In another poem, Those Days, Forugh
presents a childhood that is filled with nostalgia and innocence, and a contrasting
adolescence that she describes as those days of wonder at the bodys secret. This
sexual interest was also very much present in Farrokhzads adulthood, where she
demonstrates rejection of Iranian sexual values. In arguably her most famous poem,
The Sin, Farrokhzad describes a first-person recollection of a sexual encounter
with a man who is not her husband. Unlike the Iranian society, which viewed
premarital or extramarital sexual pleasure a grave sin, Forugh saw it as a natural
function within a relationship.
Because of these interests and behaviors, Hurston and Farrokhzad both
reveal feelings of isolation from their respective cultures and traditions in their
childhoods. Both writers existed within societies that suppressed women. In the
African American culture, women suffered retribution from the dominant white

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culture as well as the black male culture. In the Iranian tradition, women are strictly
subservient to men. Several passages in the Koran back this assertion.
In her childhood, Zora was never particularly friendly with her peers. She was
isolated because of her natural curiosity and her excellence in the classroom. As a
child, Hurston mostly kept to herself and her imagination. She credits the sense of
imagination to her interest in reading as a child. In school, she was a very avid
reader, having read from authors such as the great Greeks, Robert Louis
Stevenson, and Hans Andersen. She would always read through to the end of her
school reader before the rest of the class. In Dust Tracks on a Road, she describes
a time when two white women recognized her literary excellence in the classroom.
This gift of educational excellence was also a curse. Zora explains how her
elaborate stories and imagination kept her from making friends with the other school
children. Even at a young age, Zora recognized that she was different from her
peers. They wouldnt understand her imaginative personality and would simply laugh
off her extravagant story-telling. Hurston had a mature sense of understanding that
her peers did not possess.
In her poem Friday, Farrokhzad describes the isolation she felt on Fridays
in Tehran. According to the Iranian tradition, Friday was the weekly day off. In
Forughs early years, this means that Friday was, for most Iranians, a day of
window-shopping and visits with relatives. However, because Forugh was an
unchaperoned teenage girl, Fridays were for her a day of loneliness, when she was
forced to stay indoors because of her gender and young age. This poem seems to
characterize Forughs adolescence, in that it represents a period of time in which the

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Iranian society muffled Forughs femininity and thus repressed her budding
sexuality. These feelings of loneliness followed Forugh into her adult life. She writes
in her poem Those Days that that girl who once enjoyed all of the simplicities and
frivolities of childhood has now become a lonely woman. In her life, the
companionship of a male partner never satisfied her. It wasnt until she discovered
her love of writing poetry and resolved to live her life according to that love. She
reveals these sentiments in Conquest of the Garden when she expresses her
determination to follow the dictates of her heart.
As is true of any life, childhood plays an important role in the development of
human beings into adulthood. Both Zora Neale Hurston and Forugh Farrokhzads
experiences and attitudes in childhood influenced their individuality in adulthood and
their dedication to writing. While many factors contribute to this development, it
becomes clear that some aspects had more influence than others. Financial
upbringing and family relations are a significant dynamic in the development of the
two writers. However, there were also several inherent factors present in the
childhoods of the two writers, such as their natural inquisitiveness and their
rebellious behaviors that also contributed to their development. It is a combination of
these variables that create a unique voice for the writers, allowing their literary works
to stand out as individual and removed from the literary and cultural traditions to
which the writers belong. Their writing transcends their cultural norms to create an
experience that is universal for the reader. In their departure from their mainstream
cultures, Hurston and Farrokhzad are able to better illustrate their respective

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experiences in life, in a manner that is purely original and not influenced by a


dominant authority.