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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale…

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

by Zora Neale Hurston, zora hurston

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,499207192 (3.97)1 / 730
  1. 123
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker (aleahmarie)
  2. 51
    Beloved by Toni Morrison (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 10
    The Awakening by Kate Chopin (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Strong female protagonist causes a stir in a male-dominated society by going after the things she wants.
  4. 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)
1930s (10)
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Written in the late 30's, this now classic story of a Southern black woman's journey thru life, did not do commercially well and virtually disappeared before being rediscovered in the 70's, primarily on the heels of research and an essay by Alice Walker

Told in flashback, it tells the story of Janie in Central and Southern Florida. As a young teen, she is "married off" to an older man by her grandmother, in order to "save" her. Disillusioned and unfilfilled and not officially married, she runs away from husband #1 to an even older man. He takes her to a new town, where he opens a grocery store and becomes mayor of the town. She has a successful life, but still unfulfilled as she is just a "kept" woman and a trophy wife. After #2 dies and a proscribed period of mourning, she meets #3, a younger more adventurous man, with whom she falls in love. Against the ideas of those around her, she goes off with her new man, promising to do what makes them happy. They eventually end up in the everglades, sharecropping and gambling to make their way. Its here that all good things come to an inevitable tragic end.

Ultimately an excellent read, but my only struggle was Hurston's use of a "slangy" southern drawl for the dialog that was difficult for me to hook into. But once I did, I was rewarded. The last 40-50 pages are what took my initial opinion of the book up quite a few notches. A story dealing with race, gender roles, and liberated women in a time at the tail end of the Depression, it is easy to see why this has now become a mainstay in English classes today. In fact, I read this book primarily because it was on my son's 11th grade English class summer reading list.

Well worth your time.

"And Ah Can't die easy thinkin' maybe de menfolks white or black is makin' a spit cup outa you. Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me ddown easy, Janie, Ah'm a cracked plate."

"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."

"She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her."

"The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God."


S: 6/24/17 - 7/3/17 (10 Days) ( )
2 vote mahsdad | Jul 7, 2017 |
3.86/5 -- Goodreads
  KathrynD. | Jul 2, 2017 |
Set sometime between the World Wars, this novel opens up with the main character, Janie, arriving back in Eaton, Florida, an all-black town, wearing overalls and muddied up. The old women sitting on the porch are desperate to know where she has been all this time, but Janie has never been one to gossip or mess with them. However, she knows they will never leave her alone and maybe she wants her story told, so she has her friend Pheoby tell it for her.

She begins at the start of her life as a girl in West Florida where her Nanny worked for a white family. She sent her to school and had hopes for her, but when she sees her kisses a no-account man when she was sixteen, she realizes that she needs to see her settled with a husband before she dies so she had someone to look after her. Her Nanny has found the perfect man in Logan Killick who owns sixty acres and is nice if fat and old and he has been asking for her hand for a while. Janie hopes to find herself in love with him, but it doesn't happen and she instead finds herself stuck on a farm with a man who loves her but expects her to work on the farm.

When Joe Starks comes sniffing around the farm she falls for his charm and runs off with him and his talk of big dreams and a town in Florida that is made up of all blacks. When they get there things are run down with a collection of shacks and no government set in place, like a mayor. Joe Starks aims to change that by telling others what to do and spending his money to buy more land from the man who donated some of his lands to start the town. On Stark's land, he has built his home, and a store, as well as selling plots of land to others to build homes on. Stark makes Janie wear her hair covered in a headscarf because he wants no one to see her gorgeous hair but him. He also makes her work in the store and when she isn't in the store he makes her stay at home doing nothing. He sees her as too good for most of the town folk. He has no interest in her opinion as a woman is stupid and not worth listening to.

This book slogs along until Tea Cake shows up like a burst of sunshine. He shows Janie true love and how to live life. But something must go wrong because at the beginning of the book Janie says that Tea Cake is gone and that is why she has come back to Eatonville. This is a beautifully written book. I first read it in high school and hated it. I can only surmise that I did not finish it and get to the Tea Cake part, because the first half of the book is a bit hard to read, but the last half makes it more than worthwhile.

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do accordingly.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 1)

An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 5)
She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 25)

Some people could look at a mudpuddle and see and ocean with ships.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 89)

Yuh can’t beat uh woman. Dey jes won’t stand fuh it.
-Zora Neal Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 96)

When you see uh woman doin’ so much rakin’ in her head, she’s combin’ at some man or ‘nother.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 111)

“But you’re takin’ uh awful chance.” “No mo’ than Ah took befo’ and no mo’ than anybody else takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and sometimes it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didn’t know they had in ‘em theyselves.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 113)

All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshiped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginnings of wisdom. Half gods are worshiped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 145)

Love is like the sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 191) ( )
1 vote nicolewbrown | Jun 1, 2017 |
So good! ( )
  mahallett | Mar 29, 2017 |
I can't say I loved this book, but it was interesting and I'm glad I read it. Definitely a classic for a reason. ( )
  kyuuketsukirui | Feb 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zora Neale Hurstonprimary authorall editionscalculated
hurston, zoramain authorall editionsconfirmed
Danticat, EdwidgeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dee, RubyReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Diaz, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gates Jr., Henry LouisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Washington, Mary HelenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Henry Allen Moe
First words
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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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)

» see all 12 descriptions

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