Monday, March 9, 2009

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was originally published in 1937. My paperback copy has 236 pages, including a foreword and extra material. I will admit that at the beginning the dialogue, presented phonetically in a southern dialect, frustrated me. After forcing myself to continue, I was able to read it a little easier without as much difficulty. It really is a simple story about a black woman who marries three different men, who wanted three different women. Ultimately, Their Eyes Were Watching God is "a bold feminist novel, the first to be explicitly so in the Afro-American tradition" as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote in the afterword (pg. 197) in my copy. I am highly recommending Their Eyes Were Watching God, if only for the historical perspective of a Black woman living her life in the thirties.

From the cover:
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person - no mean feat for a black woman in the 30's. Zora Neale Hurston's classic 1937 novel follows Janie from her nanny's plantation shack to Logan Killick's farm, to all-Black Eatonville, to the everglades, and back to Eatonville - where she gathers in "the great fish-net" of her life. Janie's quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiences life's joys and sorrows, and comes home to herself in peace.

"Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly." pg. 1

"Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song." pg. 2

"You know if you pass some people and don't speak tuh suit 'em dey got tuh go way back in yo' life and see whut you ever done. They know mo' 'bout yuh than you do yo'self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear." pg. 5

"Ah don't mean to bother wid tellin' 'em nothin'. Phoeby. 'Tain't worth de trouble. You can tell 'em what Ah say if you wanns to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf." pg. 6

"Ah was wid dem white chillun so much till Ah didn't know Ah wuzn't white till Ah was round six years old." pg. 8

"Lawd a'mussy! Look lak Ah kin see it all over again. It was a long time before she was well, and by dat time we knowed you was on de way. And after you was born she took to drinkin' likker and stayin' out nights. Couldn't git her to stay here and nowhere else. Lawd knows where she is right now. She ain't dead, 'cause Ah'd know it by mah feelings, but sometimes Ah wish she was at rest." pg. 19

"Ah don't want yo' feathers always crumpled by folks throwin' up things in yo' face. and Ah can't die easy thinkin' maybe de menfolks white or balck is makin' a spit cup outa you: Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me down easy, Janie, Ah'm a cracked plate." pg. 20


sweetypie said...

Hi I am a 15 year lod student at Toledo Early college High School. As an assingment, we had to read the book Their Eyer Were Wtching God. I completely loved this book because Zora Neale Hurtson really captured the figure if people down south. She used southern words to kind of help your imagination figure out the way they sounded. Another thing that I liked about the book is how Janie completely stop living the way people wanted her to live, and lived the way she wanted. She completely broke out of character, and that showed what a strong black woman she is.

sudan welch, st.jago said...

this is by far the most thought out novel i have ever read. ms. Hurston brilliantly employs the use of language and space and no to mention symbols and she uses them in capturing the whole idea of the post colonial agenda and also her narrative techniques and her choice and portrayalof protagonist is just fantastic