Their Eyes Were Watching God
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Their Eyes Were Watching God

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  131,425 ratings  ·  5,887 reviews
One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-s...more
Paperback, 207 pages
Published February 1st 1990 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1937)
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sckenda
“Two things everybody’s to tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.” —Zora Neale Hurston (183)

Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of a woman’s search to find her voice and her fight to keep it. People dictate how Janie Crawford must act and think. Her grandmother and then a succession of men insisted on her submission. Freedom has a price of loneliness, and Janie is prepared to pay the cost. As you will see in the conclusion, a...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 04, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
”Dey gointuh make ‘miration ‘cause mah love didn’t work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”

Janie Crawford knows about love. She knows how life is with it and she knows how life is without it. She had three marriages...more
AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in historical ebonics, I suppose
Another "I don't remember it very well, but I know I liked it" story. Here's what I do recall:

A) The main character was a woman, and she had something like 3 lovers throughout the book. Saucy.
B) One of these dudes was named either Teabag, Cornbread, Teabread, or Breadbag. Or something.
C) There was some issue with the weather towards the end.
D) Zora Neal Hurston got arrested for fucking a kid, or something (I guess that wasn't really in the book, but whatever).


Somehow I managed to get through th...more
Tara
I must be the only person who read this and hated it.

I read this book when I was a junior in college in an American Lit class. I was looking forward to reading it when I saw it on my book list and read the back cover. I enjoy the writings of Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, so I was looking forward to reading a book that took place in a past time period and was about black characters/community. I really feel like I got my hopes up for nothing. I was so disappointed in this novel.

I had difficultie...more
Amanda
Another book that I recently re-read that stands up well to a second reading. Hurston's novel, unlike many classics, is as impressive and as relevant today as it was when written.

Hurston's story of Janie, a fair-skinned black woman caught in the time period between the end of slavery and the civil rights movement, is the first woman in her family who has the opportunity to be defined as something other than property. Despite this, Janie is unable achieve self-actualization or seek out the indepe...more
Samadrita
Here is a woman who led a wretched life for years, doomed to stagnate in the drab depths of oblivion even after her death which had gone under the radar and generated no nostalgia-soaked, emotional obituaries. She lay in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest, Florida, treated by her own contemporaries like an outcast because of a difference in perspectives, to be resuscitated and acknowledged as one of the foremost powerful voices that ever reverberated across the African-American lit...more
Chloe
Feb 16, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Poets, Lovers and Screenwriters
Recommended to Chloe by: Sally
You know those books that sit on your shelf and mock you for being too hesitant to pick them up? We all have them. They sit there, perched on the edge of the shelf like hooligans on a stoop tossing out insults to passersby and just daring them to pick them up and give 'em a spin. For me, Their Eyes Were Watching God was the ringleader of my abusive books. It would yell vicious things at me as I sat near the shelf and once, in collusion with my long-time archenemy gravity, contrived to whap me up...more
Dolors
Jan 13, 2014 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Unheard voices which have much to say
Recommended to Dolors by: sckenda
Shelves: read-in-2014
“To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.”

Some Trees by John Ashberry.

Janie returns to Eatonville with the sunbeams glowing on her shoulders giving her the appearance of a luminescent and almost unearthly goddess whose bare feet voluptuously caress the dusty road. Women on porches sing a harmonious chorus of gossip and coveto...more
Melissa Rudder
When I teach Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, I tell my students the Alice Walker headstone story and teach the book as a Black Feminist novel that is far, far ahead of its time. I noticed this year that my introduction made my students expect the protagonist, Janie, to jump from the novel's pages as a woman warrior, take no shit from anyone, and--I don't know--burn her bra. But the real beauty of Hurston's novel is that her heroine is a real character living in a real world--a...more
Mike
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Zora Neale Hurston's Novel of an Independent Woman

"Dat's all right, Pheoby, tell 'em. Dey gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah love didn't work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."

"Lawd!" P
...more
Alisa
I hate, hate hated this book, and I really can't explain WHY very well, but I'll try.

It was well written, the metaphors, etc were good (I read it for an English class so I know ALL about the metaphors), the characters were well rounded, it IS a really fine example of Hurston's work.

What I hated was the forward in the particular version I read. It was about a conference of women who loved the book or something, and one lady just went on and on how Janie is a strong female character, and somethin...more
Aubrey
4.5/5
She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur dog, and run off down a back road after things.
What do you live for? Love? Security? Money? Hope? There's something to said for any of them in every combination with one another, the melding usually a three of the four legs of a stool that is never quite stable. A great deal of literature is...more
B0nnie
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
For some they come in with the tide.
For others they sail forever on the horizon,
Never out of sight,
Never landing
until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation,
His dreams mocked to death by Time.
That is the life of men.


So begins Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s not actually written in verse - but it hardly seems to be prose either. The language is almost too lush and rich in metaphors to be merely a novel:

Death, that strange being
...more
·Karen·
Oh dear, I was just about to start my review by saying how I enjoyed the richness of the language in this novel until my GR friend Michele provided me with this quote from the Encyclopedia of African American Women:
--White reviewers, often ignorant of black culture, praised the richness of her language but misunderstood her work and characterized it as simple and unpretentious.
Does that condemn me as a white person who is ignorant of black culture? Well probably yes, it does, because surely the...more
Beth F.
Except for the scene where Tea Cake combs Janie’s hair and is actually scratching out all her dandruff (ew), I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I loved the writing style. I’m not terribly keen on poetry, per se, but Hurston’s prose felt poetic and many of the sentences beat out a steady rhythm I could almost hear, even reading silently to myself. The dialogue between the characters was it’s stark opposite, using a phonetic dialect commonly used by black people living in the south. Switching back an...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 16, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Time 100, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
Time 100 Greatest Novels. Newsweek’s Top 100 Books: The Metalist. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010). Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read: The Definitive List.

But what attracted me really to this book is its title: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Why? Who were they? Why in past tense?

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a popular black writer during the Harlem Renaissance (also known as “New Negro Movement”) in the 1920’s to 30’s. When the Great Depression came, this movement...more
Ellen

One of my all-time favorite novels. Most of all, I fell in love with the language in this book.

There's not really any way to spoil this novel, as so much is revealed in the first chapter. And, this book is driven by its characters and its language, rather than plot.

Their Eyes Were Watching God demonstrates the dual potential of language. Language may be used as an instrument of truth to express love, self-fulfillment, and honest emotions. Conversely, language may also be used as an instrument o...more
Stephen P


The book is in part the mythologies scripted by groups of people to provide reasons for other group's behavior, slip them under the thumb of some form of propagated understanding. Underscoring it all, some cases an accurate reading, is many a limp scare-crowed fret of fear bred by the night fall heaves of insecurity. This is not in any way to disparage or diminish the horrific effects of prejudice against women and blacks which this book is certainly about and has been written extensively but to...more
midnightfaerie
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was a piece of black literature that was infinitely more poignant than Uncle Tom's Cabin, yet the plausibility has yet to be decided. I also enjoyed it much more than Uncle Tom's Cabin. The story is about Janie, a beautiful black woman and her journey into adulthood, and on through three marriages that shapes who and what she becomes. Although many criticize Hurston's use of authentic literary diction ("Dey gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah love...more
Jeanette
12/3/09
3.5 stars

I'm of two minds about this book, but I am glad I read it and I do recommend it for the perspective it offers. It's interesting to see a slice of Negro life in the Florida of a century ago. Especially because much of this story takes place in Eatonville, a town the Negroes established for themselves in 1887. I liked seeing how they lived and interacted without white people around to inhibit them.

Hurston's writing contains some very arresting imagery. Her writing style doesn't alw...more
Lucy
This was another book I had little knowledge of when deciding to add it to my "to-read" list. I'd heard of the title, learned it was an Oprah's Book Club choice, and saw it at Sam's Club which inspired me to put a hold on it at the library, but I didn't actually know what it was about.

For that reason, I was a little nervous when I read the foreward and the critic walked me through its rediscovery in the 60s (it was written in 1937) and subsequent controversy over its worthiness as a part of Afri...more
Sue
Nov 01, 2011 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Sue by: Carol
Another classic (2011 is definitely my year of the classic) that I really enjoyed. I had heard that the use of dialect made the book somewhat difficult to read but I didn't really find it so. It just takes a heightened sense of concentration. No speed reading allowed.

Janie seeks an ideal love from her teenage years onward but finds disappointment from the day she is essentially given as a bride to a middle aged man. She sees the hard side of womanhood, being a man's possession to do his will, b...more
Isaac
Don’t be fooled by the summary on the book jacket, this isn't a love story. A more accurate title would be The Four Black People You Meet in Florida.

This genre is coming-of-age disguised as romance, and as far as the story goes it’s just one black woman trying to find her way through life. While the story has some interesting moments, the plot does not maintain a high enough level of interest to carry readers through to the end.

The main obstacle for me, initially, was the overpowering Southern...more
Nolan
I love the way Hurston describes things...

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.

So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.

The people all saw he...more
Judy
I really enjoyed listening to Their Eyes Were Watching God. The book gives a different perspective of growing up in the American South amidst a male dominated society. I really liked the characters of Janie and Teacake. The forward of my audiobook explained how Zora Neale Hurston didn't gain any acceptance for her book until after her death when Alice Walker "discovered" her writing. I am grateful to Alice Walker for making the discovery because Hurston's look at African Americans is too unique...more
Michael Bartolone
For me, this was one of those books regarded as a classic, which you are thus supposed to like more than you would on its merits alone. I certainly appreciate Hurston's place in American cultural history, and the importance of the movement to which this novel belongs. The tense last 30 pages or so saved it for me a little, and I always appreciate expanding my base of cultural knowledge. That said, I just didn't enjoy the book very much, in my own subjective way.

Hurston was apparently praised for...more
Zanna
What can I add to the discussion of a book championed by Alice Walker and Zadie Smith, except to say that I loved it as much as their enthusiasm led me to expect?

Well, I can recommend this new Virago edition, which contains Smith's careful, personal, triumphant introduction to the text, which also appears in the collection of her non-fiction Changing my Mind. I can say how surprised I, ignorant White person, was to find a nuanced 1937 critique of shadeism/colourism here. I can say I was surprise...more
Cher
4 stars - It was great. I loved it.

A memorable novel that illustrates the importance of finding your own way in life, because the path pushed upon you by your family and those that love you, or by society, is a path reflective of their own wishes or regrets, and not necessarily one that will bring you peace and joy.

Like most historical fiction I read, this was a reminder that while I may not agree with all current governmental or societal values, I am truly thankful that I was not born in the p...more
Kristen
I wasn't going to write a review but the masses demand it.

All fiction, in one way or another, is about an ontological search self or some sort of truth and how those things fit into everyday existence. While I was reading this, I hated how the main character seemed to only be able to define herself in relation to men, or how the character let men define her, but on further examination, don't we all define ourselves in relation to others or our rebellion or acquiescence to society's demands?

I do...more
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Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and author. In 1925, shortly before entering Barnard College, Hurston became one of the leaders of the literary renaissance happening in Harlem, producing the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! along with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. This literary movement became the center of the Harlem Renaissance.
Hurston applied her Barnard ethnographic tr...more
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“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 2308 likes
“Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” 1113 likes
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