Morals of a Southern Saw-Mill Worker
In "Spunk" by Zora Neale Hurston, the character Joe Kanty's death is used to outline the characters in her story. Following Joe's murder, the characters undergo different shapes of guilt, depicting Hurston's judgment that everyone in our nature has a conscience. As the characters progress a guilty conscience, they recognize just that. Intimidators, cheaters, and killers are all affected by the feelings of a guilty conscience as portrayed in "Spunk". The main goal throughout the story for Spunk was to get Lena, but Joe still wants to be with Lena. Spunk willing to do whatever it takes, he kills Joe Kanty. Later on he is haunted by Joe’s death, he then suffers from a mysterious death. Spunk Banks, a saw-miller worker in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel “Spunk”, transforms throughout the story from a dynamic character with arrogance into one filled with fear and paranoia.
Spunk the main character is the protagonist of the story. Not so much of a good guy, in fact Spunk thinks of himself as the most powerful man in town. This stimulates his self-pride, as well as his ego, as presented when he says, “the dirty sneak shoved me...he didn't dare come to my face”(Hurston 710), This demonstrates Spunk’s stubborn belief that he is the most dominant man in town. The opening words of the story, “A giant of a brown-skinned man”(Hurston 708), described by Hurston matches Spunks description of a tall fearless man. It shows why he’s feared and respected by the town people, also his size and confidence does not match to anyone else in town. Walter Thomas exalts Spunk by saying, “But that’s one thing ah likes about Spunk Banks-he ain’t skeered of nothin’ on God’s green footstool- nothin’! He rides that log down at saw-mill jus’ like he struts ‘round wid another man’s wife”(Hurston 709). Considering his size, he’s the only one in town that can operate the saw-mill thats killed a lot of people.
The central conflict of this story is about two male characters fighting over the love of Lena Kanty. This situation also ties into the theme of masculinity and control. All of these instances show how belligerent Spunk is. In our society, it is wrong for a man to take another man's lawful wife. But in the story Spunk has no respect, it’s as if he’s testing Joe to see how powerful of a man he is. As far as the reader knows, no man in town has stood up to Spunk. That being said Spunk feels he has superiority over everyone. Due to his authoritative nature, Spunk displays a craving for control. A perfect example of this personality is when Spunk faces Lena and tells her, “ah’ll git the lumber foh owah house to-morrow...when youse inside dont’ forget youse mine, an’ let no other man git outa his place wid you”(Hurston 710)!
Despite the fact Spunk showing his full ability for being hostile and disruptive, he changes completely throughout the story from an aggressive character with pride and boastfulness into one filled with