Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston, is a novel that depicts the life of John Buddy Pearson, who rises from a poor, abused stepson to a respected minister known for his bad lovemaking activities. John Pearson's story begins as a child in the post-Reconstruction South shortly after World War I. He is a mixed race child born to Amy, who later marries Ned Crittenden. Ned adopts John, but has contempt for Amy's child, especially the fact that he is mulatto. They work as sharecroppers on a farm along the Songahatchee River in Alabama. Ned is a heavy drinker and abusive. One day after witnessing abuse to Amy, John runs away at the age of 16.
Click here to see the rest of this review
After running away, John meets Judge Alf Pearson, who is his real father. Judge Alf offers many things to John, including employment and the opportunity to pursue education. Although he will eventually become a married man and preacher, it is on the plantation that John already begins his life of loving and accumulating women.
John appears to settle down and marry a woman named Lucy. The pair has children, but his wife and family are not enough to keep him from pursuing his previous lifestyle of women. There are several liaisons and affairs, one causing so many problems; he flees to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first established all-black towns in the Deep South. He is able to study carpentry and he eventually moves Lucy and the children to the town. He later becomes a minister at Zion Hope Baptist Church. He is very successful as a preacher and some of his accomplishments include growing the congregation from less than 300 to over a thousand. He is also elected the leader of the Florida Baptist Convention.
John's work for God does not deter him from continuing with his extramarital affairs. His private life becomes public to those in the church and the town. He has a drinking problem, which becomes worse when he is not involved with women When Lucy dies, his condition is considerably worsened. His moments of intoxication lead to domestic violence and other social problems in the community. He is eventually struck by an automobile, which ends his life.
Best part of story, including ending:
John expresses an interest in improving--both personally and professionally.
Best scene in story:
John meets Lucy, his future wife and love of his life. Although she won't be enough for him to change his ways, she is someone that strongly motivates him to do so.
Opinion about the main character:
John is very passionate about change, even if he is unable to do so. He was motivated to find work as a teen, become skilled and educated and this translated into him putting this energy into the church once he became a minister.