Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God Literary Analysis Essay
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel written by Zora Neale Hurston in 1937. It is a story about an African American woman, Janie Crawford, her lifelong search for love and self-assertion.
In 1937, the times of the Great Depression, the novel did not get recognition as it gets today. Black people criticized the ideas presented in the story a lot. They said that Hurston had not underlined the real treatment of whites to South blacks. They argued that demoralization had not been described as it was in real. Only in the 1970s, the book was rediscovered and began studied by students. The essay on Their Eyes Were Watching God shall analyze Hurston’s story about African American women in 1930s.
One of the peculiar features of the work is the form chosen by the author. Hurston begins and ends the story with one and the same setting and people. The main character, Janie, tells the story of her life to one of her friends, Pheoby Watson.
Her story is a kind of trip to Janie’s past life via a huge flashback.
To describe Janie’s story of life, the author uses a high number of metaphors and symbolism. First of all, it is necessary to clear up what a metaphor actually means.
“In cognitive linguistic view, metaphor is defined as understanding one conceptual domain of another conceptual domain.” (Kövecses 4)
In the novel, there are three brightest examples of metaphors: a pear tree, the image of the horizon, and mules. Two first examples are about Janie’s dreams and hopes. Janie climbs the pear tree to see the horizon. She wants to know what else is around her. She has a dream to make a trip and discover what is so special beyond the horizon.
The third example of metaphor, a mule, is an image of African American’s status during the Great Depression. Hurston tries to underline the plight of African American workers by comparing them with the mules.
Mule as a Main Symbol in the Story
The literary analysis essay on Their Eyes Were Watching God evidences consistent usage of symbolism in the novel.The image of mules represents Janie’s life, her searching, and her social status. Actually, mules represent Janie’s position in several ways.
With each stage of her life, Janie realizes more and more that her life is almost like the life of an ordinary mule. When Janie is a child, her grandmother, Nanny, usually compares black women and mules. She says: “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see” (Hurston 14). Nanny tries to explain to her granddaughter how helpless the status of African American women in society is.
Nanny does not see another way for a good and free life for her Janie but a marriage. It is not that important to marry for love and happiness. Granny tells that love and joy may come with time. A family is the very place where true love will appear. This is why Nanny finds a good option for her daughter.
Inexperienced Janie has nothing to do but obey her granny, and she agrees to get married to Logan Killicks, an old farmer who needs a wife to keep the house and helps on the farm. She truly believes that in this marriage, she will find true love and become happy. Unfortunately, it was only her dreams.
Just like a mule, Janie is forced to work in the field with her husband. Janie continues to believe that, working together, she will be able to become closer to her husband. However, being closer was not the objective of her husband. The primary purpose that Logan wants to achieve is his financial prosperity, nothing more. Janie cannot stand such an attitude anymore. The only way she sees is to leave her husband and start a new life. She desperately thinks that her new lover, Jody Starks, will help her.
They come to a new town, where Jody becomes a major. However, the situation does not change considerably. Now, Janie’s role is to be a trophy wife.
A situation with Matt Bonner’s mule can serve as one more example to find more connection between the life of the mule and Janie’s life.
As is clear from the summary, Jody Starks tempted Janie with his money and burning ambitions. He made her fall in love with him and took away from the husband. The same thing happens with Bonner’s mule. He buys the mule and takes it away from Bonner just to make it his property. This mule becomes one of the major themes for discussions. It is a centerpiece of the town, as well as Janie (because she is a major’s wife).
“The association between the mule’s liberation and its release from the debt of slavery comments in interesting ways on Janie’s own life history.” (Joseph 146).
Janie feels sorry for that poor mule. Maybe, it happens because she compares herself with it. She also suffers from abuse and sneers from other people. She cannot get into a way of being a major’s wife, listening, and obeying each word of her husband. Even though she has a better job (now, she should not work in the field but in the office), she does not feel satisfied. Such a “golden cage” is not for her.
It is also essential to underline one more situation that happens with Bonner’s mule and Janie. When the mule died, Jody does not allow Janie to go to the funeral. What are the reasons for such a decision? It is so evident that the mule symbolizes Janie’s life. In this case, why does Jody allow the mule to die and be eaten by the birds? Does he want the same destiny for his wife? Or, can it be that Jody wants to prove that even after the death, he can control the situation?
However, in any case, the mule’s death is a symbol of Janie’s freeing, at least, her soul. This death changes Janie in some way. Now, she is more or less ready to leave Jody and continue her search for freedom and happiness.
There is one more thing that needs to be considered – the color of Matt Bonner’s mule. It was yellow. Yellow is referred to light-skinned African Americans, just like Janie Crawford is. Is it a coincidence or one more technique used by the author? Maybe, it is one more attempt to underline an unbelievable resemblance to the status of an African American woman and a working mule.
Of course, the way Hurston chooses to describe the status of working black women was a bit offensive. To represent the terrible attitude of whites to black workers, the writer picks out mules. These animals have to obey their masters. They have nothing to do but work all the time.
In Their Eyes Were Watching God resolution,the main character of the novel, Janie Crawford, should follow the same way. She wants to find true love and become free as it is in human nature. Unfortunately, her path is not that easy. Too many obstacles are in her way.
“Hurston’s heroine, Janie, progresses through a series of destructive relationships with men before finally choosing solitude and reflection as the resolution to her quest.” (Nash 74)
At the end of the story, Janie kills her true love. She has to do it to save her own life. Such a decision is the brightest evidence of her strengths and her only desire to survive and be free.
Zora Hurston created the novel during the times of the Great Depression. These were the times when African American female writers were rather rare. Because of serious critiques and discontents of either whites or blacks, lots of her works were overlooked and even not published.
In the 1970s, Alice Walker reintroduced Hurston’s works. She wrote: “Her best novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), is regarded as one of the most poetic works of fiction by a black writer in the first half of the twentieth century, and one of the most revealing treatments in modern literature of a woman’s quest for a satisfying life.” (Walker A. 6)
Zora Hurston described Janie as a strong and courageous woman who never stopped her searching for independence and happiness. It was an unusual theme for those times. The essay on Their Eyes Were Watching God showed that the vast majority of African American women could not demonstrate their characters and represent their own ideas at the time. It was a risky step, and the writer was not afraid to take it. Her attempt may be justified as the book is great, and all the techniques are appropriately used.
Joseph, Philip. American Literary Regionalism in a Global Age. United States: LSU Press, 2007.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. United States: University of Illinois Press, 1991.
Hemenway, Robert. E. and Walker A. Zora Hurston: A Literary Biography. United States: University of Illinois Press, 1980.
Kövecses, Zoltán. Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. United States: Oxford University Press US, 2002.
Nash, William R. Charles Johnson’s Fiction. United States: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
Analysis of Tea Cake in Their Eyes Were Watching God: Unimportance of a Integral Character Essay
True feelings and experience are offered in Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston. The author admits that Janie Crawford has the life that is divided in accordance with the men, who enter her life. Though the central message of the story is all about the independence of the main character, it still seems to be doubtful whether Janie’s life could not be as colorful without all her husbands, different in nature and attitude to her.
There are three men in Janie’s life: her first husband, Logan Killicks, offered by Nanny, her second husband, Joe Starks, who is cruel and confident, and her third husband, Tea Cake, whom she loves a lot and finds as the only true love in her life. The role of Tea Cake remains to be crucial in the story as well as in the whole life of Janie as his passion, creativity, and desire to create the best living conditions promote safety and comfort that is so necessary for the story. Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story that touches human lives.
Emotions while reading Zora Neale Hurston help to understand the role of Tea Cake. Unfortunately, those readers, who are not able to make use of their feelings while reading, they fail to comprehend the importance of Tea Cake in Janie’s life as well as his abilities to change the development of the events.
The story with several purposes is not only an exciting but educative piece of writing. Zora Neale Hurston does not want to focus on one particular item and its development under the conditions set by society.
The point is that the chosen story is full of captivating flaws, certain imperfections, and even some contradictions which create a kind of challenge that has to be overcome (“Analysis: Finding Shades of Meaning in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God”).
Some so many people want to find true love, happiness, or richness; and the main character of the story seeks to find herself, and the character of Tea Cake aims at helping Janie achieve the goal.
Main themes raised in the text vary considerably and involve the reader in the story. It is hard to understand what the author wants to say by introducing Tea Cake as one of the most influential characters in the novel. On the one hand, some signs of feminism and the desire to achieve independence by means of changing men.
On the other hand, the society in which Tea Cake and Janie have to live in is prejudice by certain racial conflicts. And, finally, a number of psychological aspects and the idea to use human weaknesses and turn them into personal strengths are disclosed in the novel.
The feminism of Janie is a powerful weapon to analyze. Tea Cake shows how respectful and careful a man can be regarding a woman. However, his desire to lead the family is not enough. According to McCredie, the image of Janie introduces a female voice of authority (25), and even such powerful characters like Tea Cake are not able to break the judgments and diminish the role of female dependency.
In addition to feministic ideas, racism is considered to be an integral part of human life. There are three communities which are available to Janie as she marries different people (Crabtree 56). These communities introduce different attitudes to the role of a woman in society as well as the backgrounds of the relations which have to be developed between a male and a female.
Finally, the reader gets a good chance to learn how some people’s weaknesses promote the development of other people strengths. For example, Janie’s weakness concerning inabilities to find herself make Tea Cake more powerful in his intentions to protect Janie and create appropriate living conditions for her. And Tea Cake’s weakness concerning the inability to control his power makes Janie more confident and prudent.
During the whole novel, Tea Cake may be accepted as a stimulator of Janie’s life. Though Janie understands the truth and realizes that certain age differences may become a problem in their lives, she is ready to take a risk and believe in safer future for herself, her love, and her convictions. “Ah’m older than Tea Cake, yes.
But he done showed me where it’s de thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people think de same they can make it all right” (Hurston 115). Tea Cake’s desire to destroy any possible barriers on his way to happiness with Janie turns out to be so powerful that it helps Janie understand that there is nothing bad or wrong in their relations in case they are built on genuine feelings, understanding, and respect.
Personal experience of the author plays an essential role in the story as well. Zora Neale Hurston sees the cruelty inherent to the lives of many black women and the impact of men’s activities in society. She does not want to follow the requirements set by society. What she wants is to create an image of a woman that can break the rules and choose her independent way to success and satisfaction. And the role of Tea Cake is not the last in this way.
His presence makes Janie more confident in her desire to gain independence, and his support makes her believe that her ideas make sense and may come true soon. However, at the same time, Tea Cake does not want to leave Janie and chooses a form of control that is not always clear to the reader.
Main traits of Tea Cake impress the reader with its diversity. This character may become cruel and tentative, fair and absent-minded, loving and independent, serious and playful. Tea Cake’s creativity is the key to Janie’s development. Janie finds him creative as he as no one else supports the desire to be developed and probe the world around.
Playful behavior of Tea Cake makes him noticeable. For a long time, Janie’s life has been controlled by cruel men whose main goals were to have obedient wives, own business, and be able to manage the relations which are developed in families.
However, Tea Cake’s play with Janie is regarded as a new perspective, a new idea that has not been used before, and Janie is captivated with the offered methods. She is ready to accept the play by Tea Cake and try to change her life for the better. Respect turns out to be another powerful aspect of human relations. In comparison to the previous husbands of Janie, Tea Cake is attractive to the reader due to his respect for women. He does not want to create certain boundaries which allow men to take control of their women.
At the very beginning of their relations, Janie accepts Tea Cake as an integral part of her life and the feeling as they have already known each other a lot (Hurston 99). There are many such cases when the characters are not ready for everything that happens to them. Still, they have to accept reality as it is.
Unpredictable accidents define the quality of a human sense of self in the story. The unforeseen departure of Janie’s mother, sudden kiss noticed by Nanny, meeting with Joe Starks, or song gifted by Tea Cake as the beginning of the most important relations – Janie could not predict all this. Still, these very events influence her perception of life and her role in the world. The role of Tea Cake is vital yet not indispensable.
During the whole life, Janie gets evidence with the help of which she understands her financial independence. Of course, Tea Cake helps Janie understand that she can be free and happy with a man. Still, he should not be the only man in her life. This is why several critics admit that Tea Cake becomes an important figure in the novel. However, he is not too much important in Janie’s life.
Janie feels better with Tea Cake. However, it is evident that she is fine without him. She has already achieved a lot in her life: she gained certain financial independence, she knows how it is difficult for a black woman to gain recognition in the society full of prejudice and misunderstandings. Though Janie finds Tea Cake a reliable person with some positive traits, she cannot trust him entirely as she is afraid to become dependent on his words, ideas, and actions.
Tea Cake supports the idea to comprehend how one may see things that connect two characters (Wolff 31). This character is attractive due to his desire to create the conditions under which different people may feel comfortable. He does not focus on the methods used to achieve his goals as he tries to help people discover the most powerful sides of their characters and use them for good.
Tea Cake’s ability to create the world he and Janie are dreaming about remains to be an essential point in the novel. When Janie was a young girl, she had to perform the roles defined by her grandmother, first, and second husbands. She had nothing to do but accept the duties set. And with Tea Cake, Janie gets a chance to create the world and define the responsibilities on her own. This is why one of the main purposes of Tea Cake is to give opportunities which are so necessary for such people like Janie.
Though some critics admit that Tea Cake differs a lot from the previous husbands of Janie (Crabtree 60), still, Tea Cake and other husbands of the main characters have several things in common. First, Tea Cake wants to gain a specific portion of control over Janie. Second, this character continues putting his demands in the first place. And finally, he tries to help Janie as he still believes that his help is integral for her and no one else could provide the required assistance.
Beating Janie is defined as a possibility to establish a kind of claim on his wife (McCredie 28). This gesture may signify several things. On the one hand, Tea Cake still possesses some traits which inherent to males. On the other hand, male power is probably the only possibility to prove that men are not to gain control over all things in their lives.
The desire to protect the wife does not always have the required limitations and turns out to be a weakness of a man. It is hard for men to make quick decisions and consider their possibilities regarding women. This is why such characters like Tea Cake may be rather impulsive, and it is not always possible to control emotions under different conditions. Another significant point concerning the role of Tea Cake in the story is his direct influence on other characters.
Tea Cake’s love makes Janie lose herself again (“Analysis: Finding Shades of Meaning in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God”). The more time Janie spends with Tea Cake, the more confident she becomes about her dependency on this man. She is in love, and this love makes her weaker and even blind.
She does not want to see the evidence that she recently gained a sense of self is disappearing; this is why some urgent actions have to be taken. The unimportance of Tea Cake as a character is proved as soon as Janie shoots her husband because of self-defensive reasons.
The death of Tea Cake is another important step in Janie’s life that has to make her more powerful (Crabtree 57). This action is motivated by a rather selfish feeling – the desire to save her life as she “saw the ferocious look in his eyes and went mad with fear” (Hurston 184). She forgets her functions of a devoted wife, and what she remembers is that she is a human being, and Tea Cake is another challenge that has to be overcome.
Tea Cake and Janie are the two characters which show how dependent human life can be. There are many reasons why this novel of an African American writer has to be read and understood. First, this is a story about human life, its challenges, and peculiarities. Reading this work, it is possible to realize why there are so many people, who remain to be dependent on personal weaknesses and uncertainties. Another reason is about the properly chosen characters and the definition of the roles in the story.
The character of Tea Cake and his role in Janie’s life become rather important. He proves that in spite of human desire to become independent and create life in accordance to personal demands and ideas, people remain to be dependent on the events and circumstances around. Though it is not an easy thing, it is hard to avoid it.
“Analysis: Finding Shades of Meaning in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’.” Talk of the Nation. 17 Feb. 2000. Web.
Crabtree, Claire. “The Confluence of Folklore, Feminism and Black Self-Determination in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’.” Contemporary Literary Criticism 17.2 (1985): 54-66.
Hurston, Zora, Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1998.
McCredie, Wendy, J. “Authority and Authorization in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Black American Literature Forum 16.1 (1982): 25-28.
Wolff, Maria, Tai. “Listening and Living: Reading and Experience in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Black American Literature Forum 16.1 (1982): 29-33.
One Woman’s Search for her Self-Identity. A Review of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Essay (Critical Writing)
A Review of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a 1937 classic fiction novel that was written by African-American writer, Zora Neale Hurston (Jan. 7, 1891 – Jan. 28, 1960). Hurston was born to John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston and was the fifth in a family of eight children. Her mother passed on in 1904 and her father re-married. She was later sent to a boarding school, but dropped out due to non-payment of school fees by her father and stepmother.
She was later employed as a maid in a theatrical band that toured America (Gale CEngage Learning, 2011). She returned to school and graduated from Morgan Academy in 1918. Soon after her high school graduation, Hurston entered Howard University where she went on to co-found the University’s student newspaper, The Hilltop. She left the University in 1924 and was awarded a scholarship at Barnard University; she obtained her BA in anthropology in 1927 and worked at Columbia University for two years (Gale CEngage Learning, 2011)
By 1930, Hurston had written many short stories, including the much-hyped Mules and Men (1935), a landmark piece of writing that expounded on the African-American tradition. She also collaborated with several well-known African American writers such as Langston Hughes. Most of her novels were published in the 1930s and included Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934), Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939).
Hurston spent the latter parts of her career writing for magazines and newspapers, before she disappeared from the public eye, and died in 1960 from a hypertensive heart disease (Lester, 1999). Of all her literary and factual works, Their Eyes Were Watching God is her best-known work (Gale CEngage Learning, 2011).
Their Eyes Were Watching God was written in 1937 during which books on racial difference stirred heated public debates. The success of the book is attributed to the financial crisis of the 1930s that brought an end to the cultural openness that had enabled the Harlem Renaissance to thrive.
As the financial crisis worsened, political unease heightened too and writers felt that art should be used as a political tool to reveal social injustices in the world, and dismissed many ideas of the Harlem Renaissance as discriminative, lacked significant political content, and therefore did not deserve any artistic merit. However, this did not prevent the book from generating attention and heated debates, especially for its use of phonetic spellings of the dialect spoken by African Americans.
Janie Crawford, a beautiful, confident woman in her mid 30s returns to Eatonville, Florida, after a long time. The local black community gossip about her and wonder the whereabouts of her young husband, Tea Cake. They read her self-belief to imply loneliness and do not associate with her, but Janie’s friend, Pheoby Watson, stays close. After much pressing, Janie decides to tell her story to Watson (Hurston, 1937). She explains that her mother, Leafy, ran away and was raised by her grandmother, Nanny.
Nanny transfers all the hopes she had had on Leafy to nanny and when she sees her granddaughter kissing a local boy, she arranges her marriage to Logan Killicks, a much older man. Even though Janie objected to the marriage, Nanny wanted to have all the things she could not have, and it was only through this marriage that she could achieve this (Hurston, 1937). The marriage turns out to be a disaster and Janie runs off with the persuasive Jody Starks, they move to Eatonville.
Upon arriving at Eatonville, Starks observes that the locals do not have any ambition, so he organizes and purchases more land from them and constructs a store, and is later chosen as the mayor. Janie becomes conscious that Starks only wants her as a trophy wife to complement his high-profile position.
Starks passes away and Janie is overwhelmed by the number of admirers, however, she falls in love with a man who named Tea Cake (Hurston, 1937). They sell the store and head to Jacksonville where they get married, and later move to the Everglades where Tea Cake finds work in a farm. Even though their marriage has highs and lows, Janie is happy for she was in a marriage bound by love, like she had always wanted.
The area is hit by a storm and in the confusion, Tea Cake is bitten by a dog and contracts rabies. Due to his mental instability, Tea Cake attempts to shoot Janie, but she shoots him first, in defense. The court charges her with murder, but is later acquitted, and returns to Eatonville (Hurston, 1937).
Their Eyes Were Watching God presents many instances of a woman, Janie Mae Crawford, who is in search of herself. Even though the novel focuses of Janie’s relationships with other men, it is primarily a search for her inner true self, her own identity. She goes though this mission by first finding her voice, then herself.
Throughout the novel, Janie strives to find her own voice and even though it takes her more than thirty years to do it, she finally succeeds in her mission. Every one of her husbands plays a significant role in her pursuit to finding her own identity. During our first and last encounters with Janie, she is all alone. This view is supported by critics who note that the book is not about her pursuit for love, but rather that of independence.
Janie goes back to Eatonville a confident and strong woman, a large contrast from the moment we first met her, when she was uncertain of who she was or the kind of life she wanted to lead. For example, in her first marriage, she is confused as to whether she is really into the marriage to get love or for the material gains. Her confusion is slightly quelled by Nanny, who assures her that the marriage will enable her to have all that she never had a chance to have, and she will have security, especially Logan owned a 60-acre potato farm.
Her confusion is further evident when Nanny dies a few weeks after her marriage to Logan Killicks, and with no one to guide her, she runs away with another man. Indeed, while still married to Logan, she opts to listen to “the words of the trees and the wind” (Hurston, 1937). Through this marriage, she finds part of herself, however, she still needs a relationship that is bound by love.
As she narrates her story to Phoeby, she commences with her revelation under the flowering pear tree, the revelation that kicks off the pursuit in search for her true inner self. It is under this tree that she encounters an ideal unification of harmony and nature. She recognizes the love that she would like to have, a reciprocity that brings unity in the world, but is not sure of how to go about it. At this juncture, she is not even sure of what she wants.
Jodie’s entry into her life offers a reprieve from the dull and no-nonsense Killicks. With his smooth talk, Jodie convinces Janie that he will help her achieve her dreams. However, Janie realizes that Jodie’s application of authority only stifles her. When Janie visits the ailing Jodie, her stifled power breaks through in an outburst of verbal reprisal.
Her rather cruel outburst at the dying Jodie portrays the profoundness of Jodie’s inner self (Kubitschek, 1983). Her encounter with Killicks and Jodie does not kill her will in her journey to find her own identity, in contrast, these experiences strengthen her as seen when she meets Tea Cake (Indiana State University, 1982, Waters, 1978).
Janie blossoms in her relationship with Tea Cake as he “teaches her the maiden language all over” (Hurston, 1937). She is able to control her speech and remain quiet whenever she decides to.
The notion of silence as strength rather than submissiveness becomes evident during her trial. Dialogue had played a critical role up to this moment, and one might have expected the author to use the court proceedings to highlight Janie’s mature voice. The lack of dialogue in this section reveals Hurston’s unease with rhetoric for its own benefit: Hurston does not want the Janie’s voice to mistaken for that of a lawyer or politician.
Janie’s maturity of voice is a direct indicator of her inner growth, and the activities at the courtroom may be plotted too much as to draw the parallels in her inner self. Part of Janie’s maturity lies in her ability to recognize that other people’s meanness and brutality toward her or their failure to understand her originates not from hatred but from their background or limited viewpoint.
Janie Crawford, who is the main protagonist in Their Eyes Were Watching God, prenets many interesting similarities with the book’s author, Zora Neale Hurston. This similarity stems from the fact that most of Hurston’s woks are a reflection of her own self and her experiences. Similar to Janie, Hurston was married to more than one husband, and died single.
Hurston had two marriages in her life, the first was in 1927 to Herbert Sheen, the couple divorced four years later, Hurston then married Albert Prince III in 1939 and divorced in 1943. Even though little is known about these marriages, reading about Janie’s search for her inner self can give a hint as to why both marriages lasted only a few years. Even though Prince Albert III was 23 years her senior, the pair married, although they did not stay together for long (Gale CEngage Learning, 2011).
Hurston uses Janie to illustrate how women overcame injustices arising from race, gender roles, and oppression. As a young person herself, Hurston faced numerous challenges herself in her quest to have decent education, including dropping out of school to work as a maid after her biological mother died.
It was only through hard work and determination that she was able to return to school and later get a scholarship to study at Barnard University. She was the only black student at the time. The story is more or less the same with Janie who, after her mother ran away, was raised by her grandmother and overcame numerous challenges in her quest to achieve personal satisfaction and have a decent life.
Racial overtones arise from the fact that Janie was light-skinned and this endeared her to men as opposed to women with darker skin, such as Mrs. Turner. Her skin tone exposed the male preference for light-skinned women. Jordan (1988) and Upshur-Ransome (2000) share the view and mention that Hurston’s early life and experiences heavily influenced her works.
The novel is mainly set in the black neighborhood of central and southern Florida, where life is hard, the African American population is suffering from the combined effects of the Great Depression, and the low socio-economic status associated with non-whites.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is very progressive in nature as it illustrates the representation, isolation, and prejudice towards the African American population. Hurston provides a detailed description of the scenes in the novel as it gives a depiction of economic and social situation in real-life black neighborhoods at the time (Bloom, 2008, Bowers 2006).
Their Eyes Were Watching God presents the ordeals on one woman as she attempts to find her own identity. Janie is married three time, the first two marriages fail to live up to her expectations regarding the concept of the reciprocity of love and freedom. As she moves from one marriage to another, her maturity increases and discovers more of herself.
From Logan, she learns of the importance of love and compassion in a marriage, from Jody she learns, among other things, the importance of self expression and from Tea Cake Janie discovers her ability to express herself through verbal communication, and learns that silence too can be a source of strength.
Equally, she is silent in noticeable places, neither revealing why she is not offended with Tea Cake’s beating, nor revealing her words at the courtroom. The author puts immense significance on the use of language as a source of identity and strength.
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Zora Neale Hurston Research Paper
Zora Neale Hurston was a proclaimed novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose artistic contribution in the Harlem renaissance was outstandingly evident. She was the fifth-born child to John Hurston, a Baptist preacher and a carpenter, and Lucy Potts Hurston, a schoolteacher. Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891.
The family relocated to “Eatonville, Florida, which was the first all-Black town to be incorporated in the United States, while she was still a toddler” (Ellis, 2009, p.20). They were eight children in the family. As Hurston later glorifies in her literary works, the town was the first to offer African Americans the chance to live freely and independent of the Whites, as they desired.
This assertion is depicted in most of her fictional works, as it is the setting for most of her stories. Her father later on became the mayor of the town. Despite the fact that the actual birth year of Zora Neale Hurston was in 1891, 1901 became the year of her birth throughout her life.
There was a significant happening in her life that year, which is argued as the reason behind her decision. In 1901, some schoolteachers from the north visited her hometown, and she was lucky to get some books that sparked her interest in literature (Baym, 2003, p.11).
In-Depth Look into the Life of Zora Neale Hurston
In an essay she wrote in 1928 titled “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”, Hurston describes her childhood in Eatonville as easy considering that she grew surrounded by the people who supported her, and the discrimination that was taking place elsewhere was not a reality in her hometown.
This, however, changed in 1904 when her mother died and the father remarried soon afterwards to a young lady named Matte Moge (Ellis, 2009, p.22). There were rumors that Zora Neale’s father Mr. Hurston had an affair with Moge even before the wife died.
Zora had a rough time living with the father and step- mother and later she was sent to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Hurston stopped paying his daughter’s school fees, and after a while, the school had to send her home. She worked as a barmaid for a while before joining the Gilbert & Sullivan travelling troupe where she worked as a maid to the lead artist (Jones, 2009, p. 12).
Her desire to accomplish her education led her to cut ten years off her actual age in order to qualify for the free public schooling. She then joined the high school division of the Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland. From that time henceforth, she started claiming 1901 to be her year of birth. Hurston graduated from Morgan Academy in the year 1918.
Hurston joined Howard University in 1918 where she co-founded the University students’ newspaper named “The Hilltop” and later on graduated from the University with an Associate’s degree. While in Howard, Hurston took Spanish, English, Greek, and some courses in public speaking. After successfully applying by writing an essay, Hurston got the chance to join Alaine Locke’s literary club named ‘The Stylus’.
Hurston left Howard “later on in 1924 and the following year she got a scholarship to join the white dominated Barnard College” (Hemenway, 1977, p.45). She studied anthropology, and it is here where she met Franz Boas of Columbia University as she assisted him in conducting ethnographic studies.
She graduated in 1927 aged thirty-six with a B.A in anthropology. Hurston lived for extra two years in Columbia after graduating from Barnard (Ellis, 2009, p.20).
As an adult, Hurston married a former schoolmate at Howard named Herbert Sheen. Sheen was a jazz musician and later on became a physician. The marriage, however, did not last long as they separated four years later. Hurston remarried again at the age of thirty-nine while she was working at WPA, this time to a colleague at WPA who happened to be twenty-three years younger than she was (Hemmenway 1977, p.13).
The marriage did not last a year. In the 1930s, Hurston lived in Westfield, New Jersey, where she was a neighbor to the famous Black poet, Langston Hughes. Hurston wrote numerous short stories, folklore books, plays, novels and essays throughout her life.
In 1934, Hurston established a school of dramatic arts that was based on “pure negro expression” at Bethune- Cookman College now Bethune Cookman University. The English department in the University is consequently committed to preserving her legacy. In her life, Hurston travelled a lot both within the United States and outside (Boyd, 2003, p. 47).
For inside, during her anthropology research, she travelled to the Caribbean and South American and the works that came, as a result, are ‘Mules and Men’ in 1935 which was a folklore classic and the materials she later used to write the novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine which was published in 1934. Later in her life, Hurston worked in the North Carolina College for Negroes, which is now North Carolina Central University College.
In 1948, Hurston was a victim of a character assassination conspiracy. She was falsely accused of molesting a young boy, but she was later cleared when the claims were found as falsehood. The scandal negatively affected her social life afterwards.
The last decade of her life was marked by hardships as she worked as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers, and later at the Am Technical Library at the Patrick Air Force Base. She later on moved to Fort Pierce where she allegedly worked as a part-time teacher and maid (Ellis, 2009, p. 15).
Hurston’s last years were marked by both financial and health difficulties. She was consequently admitted at the St. Lucie County Welfare Home where she died of hypertensive heart disease on January 28, 1960 aged sixty-nine years.
Contributions were conducted to give her a decent burial, but the money raised was not enough; consequently, she ended up being buried in an “unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce” (Kaplan, 2003, p.89).
Five years later, Alice Walker, a young African American woman later who acknowledged Hurston as her source of inspiration and a literary scholar, Charlotte Hunt found the grave and marked it in her remembrance (Boyd, 2003, p.12).
Zora Neale Hurston’s and the Harlem Renaissance
It was during the 1920’s when Hurston began to participate actively in activities that could be regarded as part of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance is considered the most famous period in the African American culture. It is recorded as having been between the years 1916 and 1940 (Jones, 2009, p. 23). It is during this period when the Negro movement and the age of the black stars developed.
During this period, “black artists broke away from the literary and other artistic movements that were shaped by whites in pursuit of a uniquely black culture that sought to bring a sense of pride to the black race” (Kraut, 2003, p. 87). Literary works, music, and fine arts were among the sweeping artistic expressions of the period.
By the time Hurston arrived in New York, the Harlem Renaissance had climaxed and she easily integrated into the system. Her charm and talent enabled her to become one of the writers at the center of the Renaissance after only a short while.
Before she entered Barnard College, “she wrote a short story titled ‘spunk’ that was selected for the landmark Anthology ‘The New Negro’ that was a significant publication during the renaissance” (Boyd, 2003, p. 15). As a young writer, Hurston contributed actively to the movement through her writings highlighting the issues of the Negroes.
Her stories about Eatonville were acknowledged as significant forces that shaped the ideals that were being pushed by the Harlem Renaissance. In the year 1926, “together with other young black writers and poets such as Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman who called themselves Niggerati, they produced a literary magazine called ‘Fire’ which featured almost all popular black artists of the Harlem Renaissance” (Kraut, 2003, p. 78).
The Harlem Renaissance was a peculiarly creativity bolstering period for young Black artistes as they sought pride in their work. In addition, during this period, Hurston wrote most of her works that sought to uplift the Black pride and a sense of fight for the rights of the African Americans (Jones, 2009, p. 40).
Together with Langston Hughes, Hurston in 1930 worked on “Mule: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts”. The play, which reveals the problems that shape the lives of African Americans, was not finished up until 1991 when it was posthumously published.
In 1937, Hurston got the coveted “Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled to conduct ethnographic research in both Haiti and Jamaica…her text ‘Tell My Horse’ documents her findings about the rituals of Africans in Jamaica and the Voudon rituals practiced by the Africans in Haiti” (Walker, 1975, p.87).
She later interpreted these findings to an artistic viewpoint whereby she came up with plays and short stories and novels such as ‘There Eyes Were Watching God’ (1937) and ‘Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). These works are considered as crucial works that characterize the Harlem Renaissance (Hemmenway 1977, p.14).
Hurston’s literary works were largely influenced by the fact that she was a folklorist. For instance, she used dialects that were characteristic of the speech patterns of the periods that she documented. This, in a way, led her work to slide into some form of obscurity in that the dialects were related to a racist tradition.
This revelation explains why, despite her many years in artistic work, she did not get enough money to sustain herself. Critics such as Richard Wright termed one of her works, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ as not being addressed to the African American audience as she claimed but rather to the Whites (Jones, 2009, p. 64).
Hurston later became an opponent to most of her peers in the Harlem renaissance considering her rigid views about civil rights during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Hurston’s views mainly depicted her Eatonville perspective and, as a result, she faced criticism for not considering the bigger picture (Abcarian & Klotz, 2003, p. 67).
At that point in time, most of the African American artists had adopted the theme of racism as a major issue of concern to address in their works (Walker, 1975, p.89). Many of her peers who were close to her earlier started analyzing her works as well as her person life, which they considered as marred with controversies. Even Langston Hughes who was at a time among her closest peers started criticizing her (Kraut, 2003, p. 53).
Her literary works, which once portrayed the black culture as superior and influenced many people in were regarded as irrelevant for a while. As a result, her literary appeal waned over time. In the year 1950, Hurston wrote a controversial article that attacked the right to vote of blacks in the south (Jones, 2009, p. 54). In this article, Hurston claimed that votes were being bought and that the process was not fair in any way.
Later on in 1954, Hurston sunk deep into controversies when she wrote ‘Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Ks’. In this essay, she railed the segregation ruling claiming that black children did not need to go to the same schools as white children in order to receive education (Abcarian & Klotz, 2003, p. 25).
This angered many of the civil rights activists. The civil rights activists branded Hurston a traitor due to her deeds, which included also writing for the “American Legion Magazine”, which was regarded as extremely right winged. She even campaigned for Senator Robert Taft of Ohio during the GOP presidential nominations of 1952 (Visweswaran, 1994, p. 34).
Zora Neale Hurston’s posthumous recognition
Alice Walker’s efforts to mark the grave of Hurston, and the subsequent publication of the article ‘In Search of Zora Neale Hurston’ in the ‘Ms’ magazine, in 1975, marked the beginning of the overwhelming posthumous recognition that Zora Neale Hurston received years after her death. Walker’s article revived an interest in Hurston’s works among the literary scholars and fans in the period (Kaplan, 2003, p.20).
Later on, Robert Hemenway wrote Hurston’s biography titled “Zora Neale Hurston: A literary Biography”. Other Biographies of Hurston include “Wrapped in Rainbows” written by Valerie Boyd, “Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit” by Debora G. Plant, and “Speak So You Can Speak Again” written by her niece, Lucy Anne Hurston.
Some of her unfinished and unpublished works were later published posthumously. These include her 1930 work with Langston Hughes; ‘Mule: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts’ which was posthumously published in 1991 as well as ‘Every Tongue Got to Confess’ published in 2001.
The later is a book, which records the “field materials the Hurston gathered when she was conducting her research in the 1920’s which aided in writing her book ‘Mules and Men’” (Jones, 2009, p. 28).
Zora Neale Hurston’s house in Fort Pierce later on became a National Historic landmark in her commemoration. It is, however, notable that “there have been efforts to restore it, and that the house is still privately owned and closed to the public “(Kaplan, 2003, p.89). There have been recent efforts to open house to the public.
In Eatonville, there is The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, which was constructed in her memory. It is in the town where Hurston developed her interest in the arts and, therefore, she is honored as among the great people of the town (Baym, 2003, p.41).
Eatonville is a twenty-acre historic district, which is the setting for most of Hurston’s fictional works. In the Museum, there is the Zora Neale Hurston Trail, which correlates about sixteen historic sites with Hurston’s literary works.
In a bid to provide accommodation to visiting African American artists during the time of segregation, Dr. Wells, a black physician, constructed The Orlando Well’s Built museum. African Americans who visited Orlando to either do shopping or watch performances at the nearby South Street Casino ended up residing at the facility (Jones, 2009, p. 23).
During her numerous tours, Hurston spent some time in the facility and met other African American celebrities in the Hotel. The Hotel was declared a national Museum in artifacts and literary works produced by black artists of the time are displayed and documented respectively. As a result, the literary works of Zora Neale Hurston are displayed at the Museum.
A number of annual events are organized to honor Hurston in both Eatonville and Fort Pierce. These include events such as Hattitudes, the Zora Fest in Fort Pierce, the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts, and humanities held in Eatonville.
The events celebrate her life, achievements, and legacy annually. Despite the fact that only a few of Hurston’s life artifacts remain in the community, her life lives in the pages of her stories and other literary works from generation to the next.
Abcarian, R., & Klotz, M. (2003). Literature: The Human Experience (9th ed.). New York: Bedford/St. Martins.
Baym, N. (Ed.). (2003). The Norton Anthology of American Literature (6th ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Boyd, V. (2003). Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Scribner.
Ellis, C. (2009) Zora Hurston and the Strange Case of Ruby McCollum. Lutz, FL: Gadfly Publishing.
Hemenway, E. (1977). Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. Urbana, Ill: University Of Illinois Press.
Jones, S. (2009). Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work. New York: Facts on File.
Kaplan, C. (Ed.). (2003). Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. New York: Random House.
Kraut, A. (2003). Between Primitivism and Diaspora: The Dance Performances of Josephine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katherine Dunham. The Theatre Journal, 55(3), 53-89.
Visweswaran, K. (1994). Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Walker, A. (1975). In Search of Zora Neale Hurston. Ms. Magazine, 74, 84-89.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Summary, Main Themes, and Evaluation Essay
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel written by an African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston. This book secures a special place in American literature and remains the most famous work of the author. In this essay, the summary of the narrative and description of the main characters and themes will be provided. In addition, personal opinion on the novel will be included at the end of the paper.
The Summary of the Novel
The narrative represents a life story of a middle-aged woman, Janie Crawford, who was brought up by her grandmother, Nanny. Trying to build a better life for Janie, Nanny arranges her marriage with an old farm worker, Logan Killicks. This alliance, however, does not bring happiness for Janie, who is looking for love. Being a very pragmatic and cold man, Logan expects his wife to be a hard farmworker rather than a life partner.
After Nanny’s death, Janie decides to leave Logan and runs away to Eatonville with another man, Joe Starks. In Eatonville, Joe becomes a successful businessman and achieves recognition and respect for residents. Soon, Janie realizes that Joe does no treat her well and tries to control everything that she does. Even though they are married for a long time, this marriage turns out to be a torture for Janie as Joe starts hitting her and suppressing emotionally. Later, Joe dies of kidney disease, and Janie gains financial independence.
In some time, Janie meets a young and attractive man, Vergible Woods, and falls in love with him. He becomes her third husband, who she marries for love as she was always dreaming about. Unfortunately, this marriage does not bring much joy to Janie’s life either. One day, during the hurricane in Florida, her husband gets bitten by a rabid dog, which resulted in his aggressive and unpredictable behavior. Being unable to control his anger, Vergible initiates arguments and tries to kill Janie. During one of these disputes, she defenses herself and accidentally shoots Vergible. The story ends when Janie returns to Eatonville after her husband’s funeral.
The Main Characters and Theme of the Book
The protagonist of the story, Janie Crawford, is a very naïve and dreamy girl who believes in marriage for love. However, as the narrative develops, and she becomes older, readers can notice transformations in her personality. Being married three times, she is always under the pressure of gender norms and physical abuse from her husbands. Trying to change her life for the better, Janie struggles to find a partner who would treat her equally. While the first husband tries to force her to work hard on the farm, the second one treats her as his possession rather than a human being. Only during her third marriage, Janie experiences true love and equal treatment, but she is still easily manipulated by her spouse. Throughout the narrative, Janie tries to be independent, stay true to herself, and build a family based on equality and partnership. Her freedom-loving character is shown through Janie’s thoughts about life that is described in the novel numerous times. For instance, she advises her friend to never listen to the opinions of other people, but go and see if she wants to know something. “Pheoby, you got to go there to know there. Yo papa and yo’ mamma and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh” (Hurston 199). Therefore, Janie’s view of life becomes one of the main reasons for the collapse of her marriages.
There are three other main characters of the narrative, who are three husbands of Janie. Logan Killicks, her first spouse, is an old man who has traditional views on marriage. He expects Janie to obey all his orders and always work hard, spending time either at home or at the farm. Trying to gain independence, Janie runs away with Joe Starks, her second spouse. Being a confident and smart man, he quickly convinces Janie to become his wife. The main goal of his life is to be rich, gain power, and support his status as a very important person. Therefore, Janie is just one of the puzzles he needs to create an ideal image of an authoritative figure. When Janie meets her third husband, an attractive, young, and funny Vergible Woods, she falls in love and feels so happy. He is a gentle and charismatic man who plays the role of Janie’s teacher. Unlike her first husband, Logan, Vergible is always ready to talk, to explain her something, or spend some time together. Living with him, Janie can break gender division by playing checkers or learning how to shoot (Hozhabrossadat 125). However, even Vergible possesses some similar traits of the previous husbands of Janie. He is jealous, intolerant, and always tries to control her.
One of the main themes of the book turned out to be self-realization. For the long-time, the main character of the story lives her life following her feelings. She understands the relationship between self and voice in feminist processes (Ayan 217).In her attempts to get rid of dictatorship from men, she is always ready to make desperate moves and try new things. To identify her true nature, Janie refuses for stability, wealth, and status, escaping from control and poor treatment of men around her.
The author pays particular attention to relationships between men and women and gender inequality. Throughout the narration, Janie wants to “be heard in a society which is dominated by male norms and values” (Fard and Zarrinjooee 97). All husbands of Janie express intolerance to her attempts to be independent or to give an opinion about something. Moreover, some of them treat her as their possession that has to obey their rules and do whatever they wish. Eventually, Janie realizes that it does not matter if a woman marries for love or stability as she can always face inequality and unfair treatment from men.
Personal Opinion on the Novel
Even though this novel narrates the life story of a woman, I think it is crucial for men to read stories like this as well. First of all, it helps men to understand females better and avoid arguments between genders. Second, it shows that the poor treatment of women by men can lead to inevitable consequences, which may negatively affect the whole life of a human being. However, in my point of view, not only men can be blamed for the collapse of marriages described in the book. The protagonist of the story, trying to pursue her own goals, never tries to understand her spouses and be a good wife, except for the case with her third husband. Every time, when there is an opportunity, she leaves her spouses for another man.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a life story of a typical American woman of the 20th century who experience poor treatment and physical and emotional abuse from her husbands. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of evidence of gender inequality and women’s oppression in many countries around the world. Therefore, the main themes of this book remain topical even nowadays, almost a hundred years after its first publication.
Ayan, Meryem. “Marriage Confinement and Female Resistance in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” English Studies: New Perspectives, edited by Mehmet Celikel and Baysar Taniyan. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015, pp. 207–219.
Fard, Zahra, and Bahman Zarrinjooee. “A Quest for Identity in Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” International Journal of Literature and Arts, vol. 2, no. 4, 2014, pp. 92–97.
Hozhabrossadat, Sepideh. “Illuminating Nature and Gender Trouble in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, vol. 4, no. 5, 2015, pp. 124–128.
Hurston, Zora. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Reissue ed., Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2013.
Nature’s Influence on Janie’s Desire in Their Eyes Were Watching God
As children we often cling to the storybook romance. The “happily ever after” cliché certainly appeals to the young romantic: however, the harsh reality of life may soon prove this to be foolishly sentimental. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston explores these circumstances as she outlines Janie’s pursuit of happiness. Janie is described as a child of nature. The spiritual power of nature has a tremendous affect on the development of her character. Hurston uses this metaphor to symbolize Janie’s eagerness to find love.
Though as a child she craved a conventional romance, nature guides her to her one true love. Before meeting the man of her dreams, Janie experiences many failed relationships that highlight the changes in her desires. Throughout the novel, Janie is influenced by natural forces that alter these desires in her relationships with Johnny Taylor, Logan Killicks, and Joe Starks.
On a spring day in West Florida, Janie spent the afternoon lying under a pear tree.
The delicate serenity of nature filled her with sheer contentment and delight. In a dream like state, “through the pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up the road” that in “her former blindness she had known as shiftless Johnny Taylor” (11). Janie’s romantic visions are reflected by springtime. At sixteen years old, Janie, herself, was blooming into a woman. In a trance, Johnny Taylor became the target of her infatuation. Nature’s power of suggestion was able to “[beglamore] his rags and her eyes” (12). Just as Johnny Taylor kisses her, Janie’s grandmother, Nanny, wakes from her nap and catches the two under the pear tree. In desperation, Nanny has Janie married off to a wealthy farmer, Logan Killicks, and in an instant Janie’s carefree fantasies come to an end.
Logan Killicks embodies all the qualities that Janie detests. Though she cannot seem to find nature’s beauty within him, Janie agrees to marry Logan to appease her grandmother. Her naivety is made apparent when she assumes that “marriage compel[s] love” and that happiness would follow (21). Logan initially treats Janie with great care, but Nanny warns her that his display of affection would be short-lived. Janie soon becomes concerned that she will not been able to love her husband. She romanticizes marriage and longs for some kind of natural attraction. When Janie realizes that she would never love her husband her “first dream was dead, [and] so she became a woman” (25). As their marriage deteriorates, Janie notices that their relationship dynamic has changed. As Nanny predicted, Logan no longer treats her with the kind of respect that he once did. Their loveless marriage turns strained and unpleasant as Logan strips Janie of her free will, forcing her to work as a field hand. When Logan leaves town, Janie catches the attention of a passerby, Joe Starks. Joe strikes Janie as a man with ambition; his youthful energy and conviction remind Janie of her own independent nature. Joe seeks to establish an all black city in which he could voice his opinion. Their budding relationship appeals to Janie’s romantic visions of love and her thirst for adventure. When Logan returns, Janie decides to take her life into her own hands and runs off with Joe.
She hopes that “from now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything” however; she would soon discover that these childlike desires did not produce the love she so craved (32). Janie is initially quite taken with Joe’s physical beauty. Unlike Logan, she is proud to have him by her side. When the newly married couple arrives in Green Cove Springs, they find themselves in an underdeveloped town. Joe goes to work building a community from the ground up by purchasing two hundred acres of land, establishing the town’s first store and post office, and installing the very first lamppost. Eatonville, as Starks later named it, matures into a booming town. As the Mayor, landlord, postmaster, and storeowner, Starks adopted many responsibilities that took a toll on his marriage. In order to promote and protect his distinguished position in the community, he persuades Janie to maintain a high-class status that contrasted her free-spirited nature. Janie fears that this bureaucratic relationship would ruin their marriage. As Joe became consumed with his work, “ a feeling of coldness and fear took hold of [Janie].
She fe[els] far away from things and lonely” (46). Though he continues to provide for her, Joe discourages her desire to become a part of the town. Joe considers Janie inferior and believes she cannot think for herself. Janie resents his authoritarian manner and tries to resist however, Joe continues to suppress her independent nature. Having grown weary of the constant power struggle, Janie eventually surrenders her personal freedom and comes to realize that Joe never was the man of her dreams. Janie could no longer see the “blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man” and yearns to rediscover the passion they so desperately lacked. (72). Having grown weary from exhaustion, Joe falls sick. Renewed with purpose, Janie confronts Joe and blames him for robbing her of her freedom.
Gender Roles in "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
During the 1900’s, women, specifically black women, were considered to be property of men in the United States, especially down south, in states such as Florida and Georgia. Legally, women had no voice. For example, if a woman was abused by her husband, the court system would not acknowledge it even if it did really happen. In the article “Sexism in the Early 1900’s”, Becca Woltemath states that “…a woman’s job is to take care of the house and to bear children.
She’s no good for anything else. She’s just a simple thinker.” Women were forced into submission and there was nothing they could do about it. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston shows the issue of gender roles through the story of a young woman named Janie, who struggles through an arranged marriage. Through multiple characters, as well as the plot, sexism comes to the surface.
As soon as the novel begins, it is evident the roles of men and women play a very big part in this novel: “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever…Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget” (Hurston 1). In this opening paragraph of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston compares the wishes and dreams of men and women in a particularly interesting way.
By using the sea as a symbol, she is saying that men can never really control their dreams, just wait for them to come true. While women on the other hand, can take their dreams into their own hands, molding them as they see fit. Making this comparison establishes the theme of gender difference throughout the novel, and ultimately foreshadows the fact that Janie is going to struggle, yet will stop at nothing to achieve what she sets her mind to.
After first setting the tone, Nanny is introduced. Her traditional values of womanly roles such as cooking and cleaning lead us to believe that Janie will be the same way. But when Janie kisses Johnny Taylor, her view of men changes after seeing “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! She had been summoned to behold a revelation” (Hurston 11).
This paragraph is one of the most important, if not the most, in the whole book. Comparing love to the relationship between a bee and its flower, Janie suddenly craves, love, passion, and above all, someone she can consider her equal. Unfortunately, though, equality was a foreign concept during this time period. Men were seen as “all-powerful”, considered the sole providers and the only ones allowed to hold any sort of office or high-status job.
Women, on the other hand, were the complete opposite. In an article written by Dorothy W. Hartman, a historian, she states: Women’s God-given role, it stated, was as wife and mother, keeper of the household “Women’s God-given role, it stated, was as wife and mother, keeper of the household…” Many people, including blacks, believed in this sort of household: the men being on top, with the women considered far inferior.
In Janie’s first relationship, it is clear this is not the equality she has hoped for. Logan Killicks- an elderly, black man her grandmother has arranged for her to marry- treats Janie like a servant and not like a wife at all. There is no love present, and every day is a chore.
Even though Nanny knows Janie is not happy, she insists the marriage is a good one: “’Heah yo is wid de onliest organ in town, amonst colored folks, in yo’ parlow. Got a house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big road…Lawd have mussy! Dat’s de very prong all us black women gits hung on’” (Hurston 23).
In Nanny’s speech, Hurston is trying to emphasize that the female’s only role is to marry and look good, and let the man do all the work. Also in her article, Hartman says that “…due to the fact that the man was almost always working, little room was left to develop a connection between husband and wife; love was a foreign concept.”, which describes what Janie and Logan have together exactly. Despite being given all she should want, Janie seeks more.
When Joe “Jody” Starks appears out of nowhere, Janie feels like her dreams have finally come true. But after a while, the marriage turns out to be little more than the stint with Killicks. Starks, like Killicks, treats her as property and not as someone he actually loves. One example is how Jody makes Janie put her hair up in a wrap while working in the store, rather than leave it down.
Another is when he publicly criticizes her appearance, saying she is starting to show her age, when he is clearly at least ten years older: “’ You ain’t no young courtin’ gal. You’se uh old woman, nearly fourty’” (Hurston 79). Joe feels the need to tear down Janie, in order to make himself feel more important, which was an important part of being a man during this time.
By reading the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, one could immediately pick up on the difference gender played during the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s. While women were expected to stay at home and clean and take care of children, men worked to provide for their families and were considered far superior.
While these prejudices have slowly gotten better over time, most of them still exist to a small extent in today’s society. Through the characters’ attitudes and narratives, especially Janie’s relationships, and the society’s feelings as a whole, Their Eyes Were Watching God clearly displays the social issues of sexism and gender roles.
Hartman, Dorothy W. “Women’s Roles in the Late 19th Century.” Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. Conner Prairie, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print. Woltemath, Becca. “Sexism in the Early 1900s.”Worldbook Encyclopedia. Worldbook, 11 Dec. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
"The Great Gatsby" And "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
A successful marriage can be defined as a union consisting of 3 worths: happiness, trust, and sacrifice. These worths are highlighted in The Terrific Gatsby and Their Eyes Were Seeing God as they are exhibited by the relationships talked about by the authors. The swears said throughout the marital relationship process, mainly till death do you part, associate with these worths as a guarantee in between individuals about to be wed. In order for the marriage to be successful and consist of the values specifying an effective union, there must be the existence of a connection between the two people, typically referred to as love.
In Their Eyes Were Viewing God, Zora Neale Hurston integrates 3 marital relationships into Janies life story. The actual procedure of marital relationship and the existence of a special union thereafter are not spoken of with the splendour they ought to be related to, usually just being referred to for a simple one or two sentences at a time in the book.
So they were married there prior to sundown, similar to Joe had actually said (Hurston 33). The only referrals alluding to a marriage in Hurstons book are subtle and do not call for much factor to consider. As these unions take place three times in the book, each particular marriage can be evaluated for the existence of love and the worths of success.
Janies initially marriage is to the guy Logan Killicks. This marriage is a set up marital relationship by her granny in order for Janie to have a supporting and steady family, as her grannies time to pass grows nearer. Janie marries this male with no feelings of love towards him, being informed that a person would grow to enjoy the one they are wed to. Renee Hausman describes this in the post Their Eyes Were Seeing God by Zora Neale Hurston. Janie, reared by the myth of marital relationship as the only route of expression and satisfaction for a female, wonders, Did marital relationship force love like the sun the day? (p. 21) and finds in the youth of her very first marital relationship to Logan Killicks that definitely it does not (Hausman 62).
As the marriages progresses, Janie does not find this so-called love. Cause you told me Ah mus gointer love him, and, and Ah dont. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it (Hurston 24). In this marriage, there is no presence of love or any of the values of a successful union between two people. There is no happiness there, and no trust between the two, and Janie and Logan would certainly never sacrifice for one another. This is why Janie elopes with Jody Starks when the opportunity arises.
Though the marriage to Jody lasts for most of Janies life, it most certainly is devoid of most aspects of a successful marriage. The hidden purpose of Jodys need to marry Janie is to climb in social rank. The presence of a wife in a mans life raises that mans social stature, the trust other people have in him, and the mans social acceptance, allowing him to become important in politics, as is true in Jodys case. The lack of trust in this union can be seen when Jody becomes mayor of the town and does not allow Janie to make a speech. He believes that women are to be seen, but not heard.
This trust is yet again forsaken in the instance that Janie insults Jodys old body and states that he looks like de change uh life when naked in front of the men on the porch of the store. Janie and Jody are also never happy with one another after a short amount of time had passed in their marriage. The point to the union between Janie and Jody was social gain, providing for a disastrous outcome in the end. This also gave way to the special relationship Janie had with Tea Cake after Jodys death.
The marriage between Janie and Tea Cake is the one marriage in the book that can be described as being successful. It contains the love needed and the values that were not present in the previous two marriages. The love is shown as they slowly start to date and have feelings toward each other. The trust is then built as one action after another happens causing it to form, such as Tea Cake taking Janies money and winning more by gambling with it. The happiness is exposed due to the fact that Janie is working in the the muck to be with Tea Cake when she could easily have stayed in Eatonville and run the store. Tea Cake also illustrates sacrifice as he risks his life to save Janie from the dog during the hurricane. This eventually brings upon the ultimate sacrifice, which is death. This marriage encompasses all the elements of a successful marriage, transforming it into a model marriage for determining success.
In F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby, only two marriages are presented that can be examined for successfulness, those of Tom Buchanan and George Wilson. Though the actual process of marriage has evidently occurred prior to the beginning of the story, these marriages can still be evaluated on the existence of the core values and the presence of love. Despite the fact that Fitzgerald does little to comment on the marriages, he still offers a different perspective than that of Hurston.
The marriage between Tom Buchanan and Daisy provides difficulty in forming an opinion as to whether it is successful or not. It appears as though the couple had once been in love, hence the marriage, but that love had faded, calling for the failure of the marriage. Also, though the partners venture towards other people and secret relationships, they ultimately end up together still married. Nevertheless, these separate relationships outside the marriage cause it to be considered unsuccessful. The aforementioned affairs cause for the values of trust and happiness to be found nonexistent in the relationship. The relations can be said to be the origin of the lack of trust, as one partner is clued into the unfaithfulness of the other. These affairs are also the basis as to whether the couple is content or not in the relationship. A marriage consisting of happiness would not also include an affair by one partner. On these grounds, the marriage between George Wilson and Myrtle can also be found to be a failure.
Due to the fact that Myrtle is one of the people involved in the Buchanans affairs, the value of trust and happiness are found to be wanting. This lack of trust is what drives Myrtle to be out in the road when Daisy and Gatsby strike her in Toms car as George had just accused her of being dishonest. There is a presence of sacrifice in this failed marriage, though, as George proceeds to hunt down Myrtles killer, eradicate him, and commit suicide. This action, however, does not call for a successful marriage. The love had also apparently disappeared from relationship, founding Myrtles unfaithfulness.
From the marriages provided by the authors, the noticeable trend is that the unions devoid of love and at least one of the essential elements of happiness, trust, and sacrifice most likely will end in failure. The one relationship that can be called a success, though not lasting for the longest amount of time, was the only bond that consisted of a connection of the two people by a strong feeling of love. The other relationships that seemed as though they had once felt a bond of love eventually lost that feeling, meaning that the love they felt for one another was false and pretentious. From these commentaries on marriage by the two authors, it can be drawn that Zora Neale Hurston has more of a feeling of hope towards one day finding the one person someone is meant to be with, their one true love.
Double Consciousness and Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a very important piece of literature written in the late 30’s which told the story of a woman and her struggle and quest as a black person, a woman and most importantly, a human being with unique goals and desires. The story followed an ambitious woman and her quest for self-realization and self-discovery together with her experiences as wives and partners of numerous men.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, a black thinker who lived in almost the same era as Zora Neale Hurston, the author of the novel had introduced an important theoretical model and concept that will be useful for the analysis and interpretation of any reader of Their Eyes Watching God’s.
Du Bois’ concept on double consciousness became a very important perspective and lenses in seeing Hurston work. In this paper, we are going to argue that in the majority of the novel, Du Bois theory on double consciousness dictated much of the affairs and events in the novel of Hurston.
Influenced by this particular framework, the novel became a very important derivative of this Du Bois’ particular idea that encroached not only on his original conception of double consciousness but also its development and occurrence on numerous areas and topics that diversified from its original idea. The Novel The novel started with the controversial return of Janie in the town she formerly hailed with her former husband. She was confident and at the same time aloof for many of the town people that saw her.
Different gossips had spread with her return, mostly negative and against her experiences and characters. At the same time, these accusations are untrue. The only person who talked to her was her old friend in the name of Pheoby Watson. With her conversation with Pheoby, the story of Janie and her struggle and quest was told and revealed (Hurston 8-9). Reading the story, one cannot oversee the kind of language or voice wherein the story was written. The kind of language that was used gave a very unique distinction with the story. The novel was enveloped with an active voice that gave much life reading it.
In short, the novel or the story was told rather than being written. The use of a colorful and trendy black language is widespread in the whole story. The statement like, “Dat’s what Ah say ‘bout dese ole women runnin’ after young boys” is common on the entirety of the novel (Hurston 5). In many cases and speeches, the use of proper English both in writing and speech was disregarded. This kind of telling the story had tried to mirror the black culture that it is trying to tell. The entire novel is a recollection of the events in the life of Janie.
Set in the past, she tried to refresh the memories and experiences of her former affairs and relationships to different men that managed to transform her to what she is at present. Her affairs that mostly end in a tragedy had managed to mold Janie to a kind of person that is strong and firmly grounded inside. Her story of numerous conflicts with herself and the men that she related, together with the environment and the other people around her had managed to release her from the dilemma of having two consciousness circling her thoughts and actions in the past.
Double Consciousness Du Bois double consciousness is explained as being caught up in two worlds. More particularly described as the dilemma of the Black people living in a white world in the western culture, the blacks were forced by the society in general to have a dream and aspiration in accordance to the white’s vision. This is happening at the same time with his vision to retain his blackness, the vision and goals that were enveloped on being a black (McWhorther 1, 14). However, this specific kind of interpreting double consciousness can be expounded to more general terms.
As what is done in Hurston’s novel, this theory on double consciousness was no longer exclusive on a black person quest for identity in a white men’s world. Rather, the theory had shown that double consciousness can also manifest in one’s quest for the realization of his sex and gender. More importantly, double consciousness was used for a person’s quest for the discovery of his or her humanity. Janie, the central character in the novel had shown the numerous issues that are revolving on her character. First is the double consciousness that arose out of her grandmother’s pragmatism.
Her marriage for Logan in the earlier part of the novel was largely based on her grandmother’s idea on what the basis of the marriage should be. For her grandmother, the most important criterion that she must consider in choosing her husband is the security that the man can gave to him. This means both economic and physical security. It is important to note that this idea is made possible by her grandmother’s experience of discrimination and oppression (Hubert 20-21). On the other hand, this kind of idea of pragmatic marriage conflicted with Janie’s desire for a marriage that is based on love, commitment, adventures and passion.
Though she followed her grandmother’s request at first, she soon followed this innate and suppressed dream of hers by leaving her first husband in the name of Logan (Hurston 30). Another notable part of the story that discussed Janie’s quest against double consciousness is her relationship with Jody. Jody, a man who was obsessed with his power tried to isolate and suppressed Janie’s innate passion in relating to people. As stated, “He’s uh whirlwind among breezes . . . he’s de wind and we’se de grass. We bend whichever way he blows” (Hurston 60).
These statements only describe how domineering Jody was not only to his wife but also to his people. With her relationship with Jody, much of Janie’s attitudes, desires and wants were pushed into background because of his power domineering husband (Hurston 59-60). The situation in Janie holding a speech in the town meeting is a good example of Jody’s domination. The town requested for the wife of the mayor to make some speeches. However, Jody prevented her wife to make a speech, saying it is inappropriate for a woman to do such things. Janie did not react loudly on her husband’s action (Hubert 29-30).
However, emotions piled inside her which will explode and shall make her not to love her husband in the near future. Again, this is another case of the double consciousness that happened with Janie. Jody wanted to suppress almost all of her association in the rest of the population. However, deep inside Janie, she has a desire to live and associate with the population, no matter what her husband think of them. The falling ill of Jody and his death also posed a double consciousness in the case of Janie. With the death of the mayor, the rest of the town expected the widow to mourn and grieve for a period of time.
However for Janie, she did not felt to grieve or mourn for the death of her husband. Deep inside her, she felt she was freed from the chains that her husband chained on him. For her, it is not the time for sadness but rather a moment for celebration Nevertheless, she still repressed these positive emotions on public and tried to be perceived to be mourning (Hurston 105-106). Again, this is a conflict of what the society expected to be her action and what she want to do for and by herself. Clearly, this is another notable instance of double consciousness that the novel had shown to us.
Conclusion Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel that corresponded much of the idea of Du Bois in relation to double consciousness. However, Hurston writing had managed to expound the usual definition of Dubois on double consciousness. Rather than being stacked on a black person’s journey of self-realization and self-discovery in the land of the whites, Hurston had provided us a more diverse use of Du Bois’ theory. She tried to teach us that in many cases, there is a conflict between what the society, the environment and the people around and ourselves.
The societies where we belong continuously provide expectations and limitation to each one of us. However, in many cases, what we want to aspire and what we want to do does not correspond what the society expect from us. From here, a conflict develops which later became a dilemma that we have to figure out to solve. The concept of double consciousness is a very important concept that we must all ponder and figure out. Every one of us that is caught in the web of these dilemmas is hold back in the pursuit of our dreams and happiness.
Unless we managed to break free from the issues and dilemma that double consciousness had bear to us and act on our own desires and intentions, we cannot really realize and actualize ourselves towards our real happiness. Works Cited Hubert, Christopher. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their eyes were watching God. Research & Education Association. 2001. Web. Accessed 16 May 2010. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. 1937. Print. Accessed 16 May 2010. McWhorter, John. Double Consciousness in Black America. CATO Policy Report Vol. XXV No. 2. March April 2003. Print. Accessed 16 May 2010.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
About the Author Although Zora Neale Hurston (1891– 1960) passed away impoverished and was buried in an unmarked grave in a racially segregated cemetery, she had an exceptional career as a novelist. She was likewise a pioneer in recording African American culture. Hurston matured in Eatonville, Florida, a totally included African American town, and studied at Howard University. In 1925, she moved to New York City, where she became an influential talent of the Harlem Renaissance, the blossoming of African American literature and art.
While attending Barnard College, she satisfied the well-known anthropologist Franz Boaz, who persuaded her to study the folklore of African Americans in the South. Her very first collection of African American folk tales, Mules and Men, was released in 1935.
Her second collection, Tell My Horse, released in 1938, likewise contained descriptions of African American cultural beliefs and routines brought from Africa. Hurston achieved important and popular success with her novels Jonah’s Gourd (1934 ), Their Eyes Were Enjoying God( 1937 ), and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939 ).
She also composed a prizewinning autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Roadway (1942 ), as well as narratives and plays. When Hurston passed away in 1960, all her works were out of print. In the 1970s, African American author Alice Walker restored interest in Hurston, helping to restore her reputation. Background Their Eyes Were Viewing God is set in Florida during the 1930s. Although the story is imaginary, the town of Eatonville, developed and governed by African Americans, is genuine. At the end of the Civil War, blacks settled near the town of Maitland. In 1882, the black business person Joseph C. Clarke purchased a big system of land, subdivided it, and sold lots to black families.
In 1887, blacks incorporated the area as an independent town called Eatonville, Hurston’s childhood home. Quick Guide As you read Their Eyes Were Watching God, keep these literary elements in mind: •Figurative languageis writing or speech not meant to be interpreted literally. Similes, metaphors, and personification are types of figurative language. A simile compares two things, using the words likeor as.In a metaphor, one thing is spoken of as though it were something else. In personification, a nonhuman subject is given human qualities. Note how Hurston uses figurative language to enrich the novel. •Dialectis language spoken by people in a particular region or by a particular group. Pronunciation, vocabulary, and sentence structure are affected by dialect. To become accustomed to the dialect in this novel, read the dialogue— the characters’ words—aloud. Pronounce the words as they are spelled. •A symbolis a person, place, or thing that stands for something beyond its own meaning. Note the symbolism of the pear tree in this novel. •A conflictis a struggle between opposing forces.
The characters in this novel meet external conflicts,in which they struggle with outside forces, such as another character, a force of nature, or society. They also face internal conflicts,or conflicts within themselves. As you read, notice especially Janie’s internal conflicts. •The contextof a work is the historical and cultural settingin which the action takes place. Their Eyes Were Watching Godis set in the social and cultural world of African Americans in the South during the 1930s. •Character motivationis the reason for a character’s behavior. Consider what motivates the main character, Janie, in this novel. Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide © Pearson Education, Inc. 1 Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide Vocabulary 1.dilated(dì» làt id)adj.opened, enlarged, or extended (page 7) 2.consolation(kon sß là» §ßn)n.comfort (page 7) 3.desecrating(de» sß kràt« i¢)v.deliberately damaging something sacred (page 14) 4.ether(è» •ßr)n.the heavens (page 25) 5.incredulous(in krej» ø lßs)adj. disbelieving (page 37) 6.boisterously(b¡s» tßr ßs lè)adv. in a loud and noisy manner (page 39) 7. jurisdiction(jør« is dik» §ßn) n.the range of authority or control (page 42) 8.invested(in vest» ßd)v.covered with (page 43)
9.temerity(tß mer» ß tè)n.foolhardiness; reckless disregard for danger (page 50) 10.prominence(pram» ß nßns)n.the quality of being widely known (page 53) 11.indulge(in dulj»)v.to gratify a desire (page 53) 12.hyperbole(hì p†r» bß lè) n.figure of speech that uses exaggeration (page 63) 13.hearse(h†rs)n.vehicle for transporting a dead body during a funeral (page 88) 14.insinuations(in sin yØ à» §ßnz)n. acts introduced gradually and by subtle means (page 88) 15.dissolution(dis ß lØ» §ßn)n.extinction of life; disintegration (page 112) 16. excruciating(eks krØ» §è àt« i¢)adj.extremely painful (page 108) 17.desolation(des« ß là» §ßn)n.the state of being deserted or unfit for habitation (page 167) 18.perseverance(p†r sß vèr» ßns)n.following a course of action or belief without giving up (page 167 ) 19.supplication(sup li kà» §ßn) n.the act of asking humbly or earnestly (page 178) 20.drone(dròn) v.to make a low humming sound (page 188) Chapters 1–3 (pages 1–25)
Discussion Questions 1.What criticisms of Janie do the women sitting on the porch mention? Why are they so critical of her? 2.What common words and phrases are represented by these examples of dialect:Ah kin, mah, sho nuff, dat? 3.What does Janie mean when she says, “Mah tongue is in mah friend’s mouf”? 4.What does the blossoming pear tree in Chapter 2 symbolize? 5.How does Nanny’s experience as a young woman affect her hopes for Janie? Writing ActivityWrite a paragraph describing what Janie learns from her marriage to Logan Killicks. Chapters 4–5 (pages 26–50) Discussion Questions 1.List one example each of metaphor, simile, andpersonificationin these chapters. 2.What is Janie’s internal conflictregarding Jody? 3.Why does Janie decide to run away with Jody? 4.How does Jody realize his dreams of becoming a “big voice”? 5.How does Jody treat Janie? Writing ActivityWrite a diary entry as if you were Janie. Describe your new life with Jody. Chapter 6 (pages 51–75)
Discussion Questions 1.Which details of the novel so far explain the cultural and historical context? 2.What are the people’s attitude toward the mule? 3.Why does Janie feel sympathy for the mule? 4.How does Janie’s attitude toward Jody change? 5.Why do the men criticize Mrs. Tony? Why does Janie defend her? Writing ActivityWrite a paragraph explaining whether or not you think Janie is better off with Jody than she was with Logan. Chapters 7–10 (pages 76–99) Discussion Questions 1.What does the author mean when she says, “She got nothing from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving away what she didn’t value”? Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide 2 Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide 2.How is Jody affected by Janie’s insult to his manhood? 3.What is Janie’s motivationfor confronting Jody on his deathbed? Do you agree with her actions? Why or why not? 4.Why does Janie hate her grandmother? 5.How does Janie react to Tea Cake? What can you predict about their future relationship? Writing ActivityBriefly contrast the way Tea Cake treats Janie to the way Jody treats her.
Chapters 11–13 (pages 100–128) Discussion Questions 1.Whatinternal conflictdoes Janie have over Tea Cake? 2.What does the image of Tea Cake as “a pear tree blossom in the spring” symbolize? 3.What does Janie mean when she says, “Ah wants tuh utilize mahself all over” (p. 112)? 4.What does Janie mean when she says, “He done taught me de maiden language all over”? 5.What events make Janie finally come to fully trust and believe in Tea Cake? Writing ActivityWrite a paragraph describing what Janie finds attractive about Tea Cake. Why does she fall in love with him? Chapters 14–17 (pages 129–153) Discussion Questions 1.How would you describe the cultural contextof these chapters? 2.How do other people of the community regard Tea Cake and Janie? 3.What is Mrs. Turner’s attitude regarding African American people? How is her attitude different from Janie’s? 4.Why do both men and women feel envious when Tea Cake hits Janie? 5.Why do you think Tea Cake intervenes in the fight at Mrs. Turner’s? Writing ActivityWrite a paragraph explaining how Mrs. Turner’s attitude toward her race reflects the cultural and historical context.
Chapter 18 (pages 154–167) Discussion Questions 1.What are signs that a serious hurricane is approaching? Why do Tea Cake and Janie ignore the warnings? 2.How is Lake Okechobee personifiedas the hurricane approaches? 3.What does Janie mean by the statement, “If you kin see de light at daybreak, you don’t keer if you die at dusk. It’s so many people never seen de light at all” (p. 159)? 4.What type of figurative languageis expressed by “Their eyes were watching God”? What does this statement mean? Writing ActivityWrite a paragraph describing what happened during the hurricane. Chapters 19–20 (pages 168–193) Discussion Questions 1.How does the description of burying the dead reflect thecultural context? 2.How do Janie and Tea Cake make fun of white people’s prejudice against them? 3.Why does the author describe Tea Cake’s death as “the meanest moment of eternity” (p. 184)? 4.Why do Janie’s black friends turn against her at her trial? 5.Whatfigure of speechdoes Janie use to describe love (p. 191)? Writing ActivityWrite a short narrative from the point of view of another character to explain what happens to Tea Cake.
Pulling It All Together WritingWrite an essay explaining how Janie changes by the end of the novel. What has she learned about herself? About love? Dramatic ReadingChoose a passage of about one to two pages that includes dialogue. Perform an oral reading for the class. Be sure to pronounce the dialect as it is written. When reading dialogue, use appropriate tone and gestures. Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide 3 Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Sensitive Issues The novel includes language and attitudes toward African Americans that are considered offensive today. Remind students that this novel was published in the 1930s and concerns experiences of African Americans during that time. Chapters 1–3 1.They criticize her clothing, her relationship with a young man, and her manners; they seem to be envious of her. 2.Ah kin—I can; mah—my; sho nuff—sure enough; dat—that 3.“My tongue is in my friend’s mouth,” which means that her friend will speak for her and tell her story. 4.Possible responses: It represents her dreams, possibilities, the promise of love, adulthood. 5.Nanny had a child by her slave master and was mistreated by the master’s wife; she wanted Janie to be safe and have a husband to protect her.
Writing ActivityShe learns that love does not automatically come with marriage; she realizes she could never be satisfied with Logan and that she wants more out of life. Chapters 4–5 1. Possible responses: simile: “morning air like a new dress”; metaphor: “He had always wanted to be a big voice”; personification: “The sun from ambush was threatening the world with red daggers.” 2.She is attracted to Jody and to the prospect of new horizons, but she is afraid that he might use her and then leave. 3.She realizes that life with Logan means a narrow existence with little romance or excitement; Jody offers a way out and a chance at new horizons. 4.He works to establish a new town by buying up land and organizing people to begin developing it. 5.He treats her like a lady and does not allow her to participate in important decisions and activities. Writing ActivityStudents’ entries may suggest that Janie is disappointed with her new life; that she was expecting more participation in life instead of being just a fixture.
Chapter 6 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. the details about the farm; attitudes about white people; dialect, storytelling, and humorous exchanges They make jokes about him; they think it’s funny to tease him; they have no concern for him. Possible response: Like the mule, she too has been treated like an object for many years. She realizes that he was never the romantic figure she had originally thought; she no longer loves him. They believe she is making a fool of her husband; they believe she is deliberately spiteful toward her husband. Janie believes the men are arrogant and that they think they are better than women. Writing ActivityStudents may suggest that she is better off with Jody because she has more financial security and that she sees more of the world. Others may say that while Logan wanted Janie to work hard, Jody tries to break her spirit, and so she was better off with Logan.
Chapters 7–10 1.She receives no love or respect from Jody; she gives him her obedience and her work, but she does not give him her heart. 2. He is humiliated; he strikes her when she insults him; he worries that people are making fun of him.3.Possible responses: She wants to let him know what he has done to her before it’s too late; she may want to hurt him. Some students may agree with her, saying that he deserves to hear the truth; others may say that it is cruel to torment a dying person. 4.She feels her grandmother “sold” her and tried to stifle her dreams for the sake of material security. 5.She is attracted to him and a little afraid of him, worried about what his motives might be. They probably will have a happy relationship. Writing ActivityStudent paragraphs should show that Tea Cake treats her with respect and enjoys her company; Jody treats her like an object or a possession to be dominated.
Chapters 11–13 1. 2. 3. She likes him and is attracted to him, but she cannot believe that he is being honest with her; she is concerned about the difference in their ages; she is worried that he might just want to use her and take her money. He symbolizes her dreams for romance and love, new life, and a life that is fulfilling. She wants to grow and exercise all of her abilities and possibilities. 4He has renewed her dreams and makes her feel young again. 5.He uses her money but replaces it by gambling and returning to her. Writing ActivityStudent responses may reflect that he treats her with respect; he seems to enjoy her company; he is funny and lively. Chapters 14–17 1.The people are migrant workers who come to the Everglades seasonally; they are mostly poor and black, with little education, but they enjoy life and one another’s company. 2.They enjoy his good humor and her good looks; they look up to them. 3.She does not like black people; she thinks that the lighter the skin the better; she looks down on blacks. Janie accepts her people and enjoys their company. 4.The men believe it is a sign of his dominance and possession of her; the women believe it is a sign of his love for her. 5.Possible responses: He knows that by pretending to stop the fight, it will actually make the fight worse.
Writing ActivityStudent paragraphs should show that, at the time, blacks suffered discrimination and segregation and were not treated as equal to whites, especially in the South. Many blacks tried to look more like white people in order to gain acceptance Chapter 18 1.the Indians leaving; the crows flying; the warning of Tea Cake’s friends. They are making good money; Tea Cake believes that the weather will clear. 2.The lake is personified as a monster rolling in its bed. 3.She has “seen the light” with her life with Tea Cake and believes she is better off than many other people who have never had the chance at real love. 4.A metaphor. Possible meanings: they were depending on God, or a higher power, to protect them, or they were watching and waiting to see what the higher power, nature, or fate had in store for them.
Writing ActivityStudent paragraphs should reflect details of the hurricane as described in the text. Chapters 19–20 1.It shows white men forcing black men to work, segregation even in death, and the lesser value placed on blacks. 2.They joke about how whites think that the black people they know are okay but the ones they do not know are bad and that whites think that they already know all the “good” blacks. 3.It was the cruelest moment in Janie’s life when she had to kill the man who had helped her blossom and whom she loved. 4.They claim that she was trying to poison Tea Cake. 5.She uses a simile, comparing love to the sea. Writing ActivityThe narrative should include the main events of Tea Cake’s sickness and death. Pulling It All Together WritingStudent essays should reflect Janie’s growth and how she becomes aware of her own needs and feelings and learns the meaning of love. Dramatic ReadingReadings should accurately reflect the dialect and be performed with appropriate voice inflections and gestures.
Answers to Test Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 2. c A. Thinking About Their Eyes Were Watching God 1. c 3. d 8. a 9. c 10. b 4. b 5. b 6. b 7. b B.Recognizing Literary Elements and Techniques 11.dialect 12.figurative language 13.conflict 14.context 15.symbol C. Essay Questions 16.EasyStudents should give details about each man. For example, Logan Killicks was hard working and willing to provide for Janie, but he lacked imagination and an adventurous spirit. He would have stifled Janie. She married him at the insistence of her grandmother, who believed that she would be safe and cared for in the marriage. 17.AverageStudents may suggest that Janie achieved her dreams of “far horizons” and true love. They may use examples of her leaving Logan Killicks; of her resisting Jody’s attempts to dominate her; and, finally, her love for Tea Cake.
Others may point out that she lived with Jody for many years, that she lost Tea Cake, and that she returned to Eatonville as a seemingly broken woman. 18.ChallengingStudents who argue that she should have portrayed the sufferings of blacks may discuss the social conditions of the time and use the examples of Mrs. Turner’s obvious prejudice and the incident in which Tea Cake was pressed into service in burying flood victims. Students who argue in support of Hurston may use examples such as Joe Stark’s organizing a township, the humorous stories that the characters tell one another, and Janie’s sense of dignity