Heart of Darkness (1899): Conrad distinguishes race and critiques imperialism with dialect.
“Melanctha” (1909): Stein experiments with dialect to emphasize how things are said and what is left unsaid.
As I Lay Dying (1930): Faulkner’s use of dialect to emphasize regionalism in the United States.
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937): As part of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston uses black dialect to represent black life.
These four works use dialect for different purposes. Over the course of time that these works were written, dialect moves from emphasizing a point to representing different lifestyles. Dialect in Heart of Darkness is a point of shame, whereas dialect in Their Eyes Were Watching God is a source of pride.
“What she coin coming back here in dem overhauls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat you lad of a boy she went off here aid? – Thought she was going to marry? Where he left her? – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs – why she don’t stay in her class? -” (2)
Notes: dialect, gender expectations, age expectations – she isn’t expected to still “dress young”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song. “What she doin coming back here in dem overalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? — Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?” (2).
Hurston, Z. N. (1937). Their eyes were watching god. (p. 2). New York: Harper Perennial.
Notes: The author provides a sharp contrast to the way the narrator describes the women and how they are talking about others (“burning statements”) and the way that the women actually speak (“dem overalls”). They speak in a dialect that at times can be difficult to understand and interpret, so the reader travels through the novel from being able to perfectly understand the narrator to having to switch to dialogue and work a bit harder to perfectly understand what is being said.
“Durn that road. And it fixing to rain, too. I can stand here and same as see it with second-sigh, a-shutting down behind them like a wall, shutting down betwixt them and my given promise. I do the best I can, much as I can get my mind on anything, but durn them boys.” (35)
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage International, 1990. Print.