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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale…

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

by Zora Neale Hurston

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11,300168247 (3.98)1 / 639
  1. 103
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker (aleahmarie)
  2. 40
    Beloved by Toni Morrison (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 10
    Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Kincaid and Hurston have each set their moving, character-driven novels in atmospheric, sunny settings -- the Caribbean, and Florida respectively. Both novels explore haunting truths about identity, society, friendship and love as an African-American female protagonist gains new self-awareness and respect for her experiences.… (more)
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English (166)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (168)
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Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurstons's passionate and poetic novel, charts Janie Crawford's quest for self realization and autonomy. Janie's grandmother first marries her off to a prosperous older man so that Janie will not end up a mule to some poor man. From her experience Nanny had seem that while blacks had been emancipated, black women had not really. They became the slaves of black men - their husbands who beat them and worked them as heartily as though they were their mules. Janie who is blessed with beauty and white blood was a sought after bride by the wealthier black men. Of course this marriage is a failure, and Janie leaves him for Joe, a man set on becoming a leader. Together they head for Eatonville, Florida, the then nascent all black township which would become the country's first incorporated black township. As Joe becomes the mayor, postmaster and principle landlord of the town, Janie is set on a pedestal above the other town people. Joe restricts socializing with them since he considers them beneath her dignity, after all she is Mrs. Mayor. By Nanny's estimation, Janie has reached the pinnacle of freedom, but as she tells her friend Pheoby, because Nanny
was a product of slavery she thought of freedom as freedom to work, being able to sit on the porch and watch others to work. Janie wants freedom in the form of self-realization and determination. She finds this after Joe's death. Tea Cake Woods, a lively man a good bit younger than her brings to Janie her first experience of the love she had hoped to find when she watched the bees from under a pear tree as a teenager. That love gives her the courage to strike out against convention. Preferring realities poverty with Tea Cake to wealth, she leaves Eatonville to become a migrant worker in the Everglades, "living on the muck."

Hurston's use of Ebonics makes her novel difficult at the beginning. Just as when reading A Clockwork Orange, the reader must hang in their as they work through the grammar. Though I was raised hearing Gullah, reading it is a bit harder going. I actually had to "read." By that I mean read word by word, something I have never really done. I read in chunks. After a few chapters though it was easier. Just as the author's use of shifting from 1st to 3rd person is natural for this story of self discovery, her use of Ebonics is as well. In fact, it is essential. The early effort for the reader is worth it.

( )
  lucybrown | Sep 26, 2015 |
This novel has been my false-starter for ten, and took longer than necessary to read, but I finally came to find the rhythm of the black colloquial dialogue and appreciate the humour and wisdom of the narrative. Sadly, I would have to side with Zadie Smith's friend, quoted in her introduction, and call this 'Just this long, whiny, trawling search for a man!' Janie doesn't so much 'take some time to find the man she really loves' as ricochet from one insecure egomaniac to another. Her grandmother marries her off to 'some old skull-head in the graveyard' with sixty acres, who she then leaves for Joe Starks, who takes her to Eatonville and sets himself up as mayor of the all-black town. We are then supposed to believe that she meets the love of her life in Tea Cake Woods, but I couldn't tell the difference between a man who spends her money on gambling and a guitar and asks her to work alongside him in the fields so he can keep an eye on her, and the previous two candidates. Still, as Janie says, 'You got to go there to know there'.

I did like Janie's homespun wisdom and clever phrasing, though. Hurston writes lines like 'Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board' and 'She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her'. I just wish Janie was as smart and forthright as the author who penned her! ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Aug 4, 2015 |
An excellent story teller. Very poetic writing filled with images. Obvious master of the spoken culture of the poor African-Americans in Florida during the thirties. I found the use of dialect distracting but I realize the author is being faithful to her characters, but Ah do get tired uh readin dialect. Umph ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
This book gets better every time I read it. Or perhaps I am a better reader as I get older. I find myself referring back to Their Eyes over and over. ( )
  LauraCLM | May 7, 2015 |
This book is a classical book of fiction about an Afro-American woman writer and her story of the life of a woman from the backwaters of Florida and the lessons of life she learns as she evolves into her selfhood through three marriages and a life of poverty, trials and purpose. This is not a novel that demonstrates the spiritual strength of women but it does demonstarate the fact that Afro-American women can have spiritual strength and fortitude for the vicissitudes of life. ( )
  mrkurtz | Apr 14, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zora Neale Hurstonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gates Jr., Henry LouisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Washington, Mary HelenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Henry Allen Moe
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Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.
When I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God, in the early 1970's, I devoured it as one devours the most satisfying romantic fiction - the kind that stems from reality and that can, in the broadest sense, become real for oneself. (Introduction)
I first encountered Zora Neale Hurston in an Afro-American literature course I took in graduate school. (Afterword)
This singing she heard that had nothing to do with her ears. the rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness...

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her.
Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore.
Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches.
She saw a dust bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!
There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
This is the story a girl who searches for the love she believes is true. Throughout her struggles she gains strength, independence, and wisdom. She overcomes the obstacles in her path to chase her dreams and they take her places she never thought she'd end up.

We read this book for class last year. And I don't like Janie at all. I think she's flighty, annoying, childish, and selfish. I don't like Janie but I do like what she learns throughout her life. I appreciate that she is determined and willing to fight for what she wants and believes.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061120065, Paperback)

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston was the preeminent black woman writer in the United States. She was a sometime-collaborator with Langston Hughes and a fierce rival of Richard Wright. Her stories appeared in major magazines, she consulted on Hollywood screenplays, and she penned four novels, an autobiography, countless essays, and two books on black mythology. Yet by the late 1950s, Hurston was living in obscurity, working as a maid in a Florida hotel. She died in 1960 in a Welfare home, was buried in an unmarked grave, and quickly faded from literary consciousness until 1975 when Alice Walker almost single-handedly revived interest in her work.

Of Hurston's fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God is arguably the best-known and perhaps the most controversial. The novel follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman living in the black town of Eaton, Florida. Hurston sets up her characters and her locale in the first chapter, which, along with the last, acts as a framing device for the story of Janie's life. Unlike Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hurston does not write explicitly about black people in the context of a white world--a fact that earned her scathing criticism from the social realists--but she doesn't ignore the impact of black-white relations either:

It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.
One person the citizens of Eaton are inclined to judge is Janie Crawford, who has married three men and been tried for the murder of one of them. Janie feels no compulsion to justify herself to the town, but she does explain herself to her friend, Phoeby, with the implicit understanding that Phoeby can "tell 'em what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf."

Hurston's use of dialect enraged other African American writers such as Wright, who accused her of pandering to white readers by giving them the black stereotypes they expected. Decades later, however, outrage has been replaced by admiration for her depictions of black life, and especially the lives of black women. In Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston breathes humanity into both her men and women, and allows them to speak in their own voices. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:31 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Meet the unforgettable Janie Crawford, an articulate African-American woman in the 1930s. Traces Janie's quest for identity, through three marriages, on a journey to her roots. When Janie Starks returns to her rural Florida home, her small black community is overwhelmed with curiosity about her relationship with a younger man.… (more)

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