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Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

by Zora Neale Hurston

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,950268255 (3.98)1 / 829
A novel about black Americans in Florida that centers on the life of Janie and her three marriages.
  1. 123
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker (aleahmarie)
  2. 51
    Beloved by Toni Morrison (BookshelfMonstrosity, MistaFrade)
  3. 20
    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)
  4. 11
    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.
1930s (12)
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English (264)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (267)
Showing 1-5 of 264 (next | show all)
This is one of my favorite books. I had read it before, but I had read that Ruby Dee's narration in the audio book was amazing. So, I hauled out my hardback copy of this beautiful work and followed along as this great actress covered all of the voices of the story -- the characters and the literary voices of lyrical prose, dialect and internal dialogue. Just gorgeous. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
I confess that this book was a little tedious for about the first half. There's some beautiful writing, but it's mixed with some dialect that's difficult to slog through. More than that, I just had a difficult time feeling much for the protagonist. Her driving motivation at the beginning is just a youthful yearning for love that left me worried that the book was going to be overly romantic.

Fortunately, the second half of the book completely shifts in tone once the character of Tea Cake comes onto the pages. The tedious dialect suddenly becomes funny and musical. The author's take on love recognizes that there are no perfect people to fall in love with, and shows that love the comes later in life is usually more rewarding that the love of youth.

I found the passages dealing with death to be especially moving and poetic. Still, the final chapters left me a little unsatisfied. There's a fairly large plot point left unresolved. I assume it's intentional, but it still detracts from an otherwise great ending. ( )
  James_Maxey | Jun 29, 2020 |
This is a vivid depiction of a poor black woman's life as her fortunes rise and fall and she makes her way through 3 marriages. It's dramatic and passionate with great colloquial dialogue. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jun 28, 2020 |
This book plops you right into a woman’s world in 1930s. She despised her grandmother’s advice, who had been a slave, wanting the MC to have a better life. The MC didn’t get that, blaming her grandmother for her own choices. That said, this book feels so true about what life was like for a poor woman at this time (& probably now for some), hard, cruel, mostly loveless. The MC frustrated me, but I still rooted for her. A great classic from 1937. ( )
  KarenMonsen | Jun 24, 2020 |
I was ambivalent about this novel until about 30 pages from the end. Some of the issues I had remained even after I decided I liked the novel, but many of them were resolved. For example, I still find the prose sometimes overwritten; it reads in places like metaphor stacked upon metaphor stacked upon metaphor in a way that seems forced and inorganic. Furthermore, the difference between the 40 year old Janie and the 15 year old Janie is almost nonexistent until the closing chapters; for most of the novel she is doe-eyed and gullible, a bit of a simpleton, to be frank, and this can be tiresome. Though I think she should age sooner than she does, at least when we leave her she has shed some of her idealistic fantasies about love and has come, instead, to appreciate loss as a part of a mature love-experience. It's also troublesome that Tea Cake's abuse of Janie is, at best left unchallenged and, at worst romanticized. However, the dialogue redeems the novel; it is brilliantly written. It is also clear to see how TEWWG, with its multitudinous themes, sets the stage for nearly every work of Black female fiction that follows.

If I have obdurate reservations, I see how Dr. Gates' observation in the Afterword sheds light on them: "What we might think of as Hurston's mythic realism, lush and dense within a lyrical black idiom, seemed politically retrograde to the proponents of a social or critical realism. If Wright, Ellison, Brown, and Hurston were engaged in a battle over ideal fictional modes with which to represent the Negro, clearly Hurston lost the battle. But not the war." ( )
  TheaJean | Jun 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 264 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hurston, Zora Nealeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Danticat, EdwidgeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dee, RubyReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Diaz, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gates Jr., Henry LouisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinkney, JerryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ZadieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Washington, Mary HelenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, Sherley AnneAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
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)
Quotations
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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