Zora Neale Hurston introduces bags as a symbol of her own experience of and thinking about race. She refers to “brown” and “white, red and yellow” bags that represent skin color, but that’s the end of her description of the bags themselves. In contrast, Hurston describes their contents in rapturous detail, mentioning objects both exceptional, such as a “first-water diamond,” and mundane, such as “an empty spool.” But even the worn or commonplace objects achieve pathos in Hurston’s language, as she describes things such as “old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be.” By privileging contents over outward appearance, Hurston draws attention to the hopes, memories, relationships, and challenges that might be found in any bag—and, it follows, human being. Suggesting that all the contents be “dumped in a single heap” may gesture towards a post-racial future where what is essential in human experience—namely personality, character, and history—transcends skin color.
Bags Quotes in How it Feels to be Colored Me
Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag.