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Their Eyes Were Watching God

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  181,117 Ratings  ·  7,918 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 1990 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1937)
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Beth This is a line in a dramatic scene in the story, but it also speaks to the way most of the characters didn't understand that the main character had…moreThis is a line in a dramatic scene in the story, but it also speaks to the way most of the characters didn't understand that the main character had claimed her place in the world as a young woman and her choices were made from a deeply spiritual place (although she wouldn't have said it that way.)(less)
Maureen Laney Native Son by Richard Wright might be a good option. It takes place in Chicago, not the south, but is the same general time period. And a great novel…moreNative Son by Richard Wright might be a good option. It takes place in Chicago, not the south, but is the same general time period. And a great novel regardless of how close it parallels this one!(less)
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25th out of 319 books — 160 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 25, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern
”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
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
AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it liked it  ·  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
Dec 23, 2014 Tara rated it really liked it
I recently reread this book, in February 2011 and wrote a new review. It's a lengthy review, but I learned a lot on the second reading, hence the length. I posted that review on my blog, so here's the link: http://left-handedright-brained.blogs....

***I decided to remove the original review I posted for this book due to the new review I wrote in February 2011. The original review I posted for this book is no longer how I feel about the book and therefore wanted to move forward with the 2011 revi
...more
Amanda
Oct 15, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kick-ass, blog
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
Melissa Rudder
Jun 13, 2008 Melissa Rudder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dolors
Jan 13, 2014 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Unheard voices which have much to say
Recommended to Dolors by: Steve 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 covet
...more
Chloe
Aug 01, 2015 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  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
Perry
Jul 23, 2016 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Classic That Hasn't Finished Saying What It Has to Say
Seeing Within You More than Before

Their Eyes Were Watching God should be more highly revered as an American classic. Italo Calvino defined a "classic" as "a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” The current racial turmoil brewing in the United States today leaves no doubt that this Zora Neale Hurston classic still hasn't finished saying what it has to say.

Ms. Hurston's decision to attain a verisimilitude by using the l
...more
Alisa
Feb 18, 2010 Alisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lawyer
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
·Karen·
Jul 06, 2011 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Fabian
Aug 29, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A story as melancholic for its relationship to the writer's own life/destiny as another Southern masterpiece "Confederacy of Dunces." I cannot imagine that this isn't Toni Morrison's true foundations of prose--the beauty of which borders on the sublime. The modernism of "Their Eyes" lies in the intermixing of 1930's black vernacular with poetic lines which themselves carry astute and precise craft--this is outstanding. Lightning in a bottle--that is what this book reads like.

I love to choose sid
...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 12, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was in school we were given a choice to read Soul on Ice, Johnny got his gun or this book. I choose Johnny, a book that haunts me to this day. Huston's book always remained in the back of my mind, though I can't help but wonder if I would have appreciated it back then as much as I did now.

I did find the dialect difficult at times, but I found if I read it out loud it made more sense. Of course my husband thought I was demented, but he often does. I cannot imagine being married as young as
...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
Paul
Sep 05, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
This is a wonderful novel and I would recommend it. The speech is not easy to follow initially, but is easy to get the hang of if you persist and is well worth the effort.
The story of the life and loves of Janie Crawford; told in her own words and in a strong clear voice. It has had a mixed history in terms of reviews. Ralph Ellison criticised its “calculated burlesque” and others regarded it as not being serious fiction. Then there was the debate about racial uplift and improving image; an appr
...more
B0nnie
Feb 01, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
☆ ĄňŊǡƂėƮĦ ☆ ŞŧŎŋė
4.5/5.
When I first heard that we were going to read this book, I wasn't sure what to think since it was written with a Southern dialect. As I read, though, my feelings for it changed. This books shows the growing up and life of Janie Crawford through her describing to her friend Phoebe years after it happened. This gave much more insight and you knew how she was feeling. In the beginning of the book she was hopeful and had many dreams to being happy and in love. Over the years though, her dreams
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 16, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  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
Hugh
Aug 29, 2016 Hugh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll start by thanking Zadie Smith - her introduction to this edition is also the first essay in her collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, which I read earlier this year. Hurston was not talked about when I was at school and I knew nothing of her or this book before reading the essay, but it was enough to persuade me that I had to read the book. Smith says "There is no novel I love more", and that kind of hyperbole creates very high expectations, but within a few pages I was drawn in t ...more
Mike
Jun 09, 2016 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
Thus begins the fascinating sto
...more
Thepocobookreader
On publication, Their Eyes Were Watching God was judged as a purely ‘black’ novel of nominal value. Written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, the novel appeared at a time when African-American writers, artists and musicians were making important steps towards celebrating their afro-centricity and criticising white America for her oppression; and so Hurston’s novel was poorly received. Set in the black township of Eatonville, Their Eyes Were Watching God charts the life of Janie Stark, and ...more
Ellen
Feb 10, 2010 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, novels

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
Isaac
Jan 31, 2013 Isaac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Xueting
A really extraordinary story about love and a woman's consciousness!

In the afterword, the writer singles out Zora Neale Hurston for being "more of a novelist than a social scientist". I totally agree, but I think this also brought out a downside to her way of writing. First of all and most outstandingly, Hurston's greater concern for character and a beautiful story allowed for her book to be engaging and endurable through time, place and culture. The story of a woman's search for love and her ow
...more
Natalie Monroe
Janie was badass up until she met Tea Cake. Then it was "Feminism? What feminism?"
Stephen P
Apr 16, 2014 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


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
Kiwi
The story of a woman, Janie, looking for unconditional love. For me it was hard to read and understand because of the dialect, but the many interwoven themes of race, power, gender, religion and love, turned it into a rewarding read. 3.5 stars

Favourite quotes:

Women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget.

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 eve
...more
Christopher
Mar 26, 2016 Christopher rated it really liked it
"There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can be slave-ships in shoes."

This one was long overdue for me, as it has been canonized in the black, feminist and american literary traditions.

"Time makes everything old so the kissing young darkness became a monstropolous old thing while Ja
...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.” 2982 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.” 1212 likes
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