Amber Vaughn's Reviews > Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
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May 15, 08


“Their Eyes Were Watching God” is one of the best books I have read throughout my high school career. I usually don’t like books that have the country “slang” dialogue, because it takes me longer to read and comprehend. Even thought Zora Neale Hurston wrote this way in her novel, the was so interesting to me that I continued reading it even though I’m not accustomed to that type of writing. Every paragraph brought out my imagination, and I often found myself picturing the story in my head as if it were a movie.
This novel took place around the 1920’s in the state of Florida. Janie, the main character was a beautiful young African-American girl with long silky hair like a white person. She was often praised and adored for her long beautiful hair. She was raised by her grandmother who was something like a maid. They lived in the back of a white family’s yard. Janie had never really known she was black until she saw her first photograph standing next to all the other white kids, and she realized she didn’t look anything like them.
Janie’s grandmother always wanted the best for her granddaughter, especially when it came to men and her financial future. A young man named Logan Killicks was the rich man in their town. He was intelligent, he had money, and land, but one thing Logan was lacking was good looks. All Janie’s grandmother was for her was a stable home and financial security when she could no longer care for Janie. Logan and Janie ended up getting married. Janie did this mainly to please her grandmother and make her happy. Later on things began to get rocky in their marriage, and Janie ran off with a man named Jody Starks who was roaming through her neighborhood one day. Jody Starks was very prosperous and became the mayor of his own town called Eatonville. Although Starks had money and power, he was the jealous type and became very controlling over Janie. He even went to the extreme of making her tie up her hair in the store they opened so men who came through could not admire it. Jody later died of kidney complications. After Jody died Janie met a nice young man named Vergibil Woods, but better known as “Tea Cake”. Janie loved Tea Cake with all her heart and Tea Cake loved her equally if not more. They would later move to the Everglades and be happily together as long as they lived.
Zora Neale Hurston has one of the most unique styles of writing. She leads you on many times in the story to make you contemplate what was going to happen next. An example of this is when she shows how all of Janie’s marriages start off so well but ended on a sour note. Many readers probably would have never expected those outcomes, because I know I didn’t. The way Zora Neale Hurston uses the southern dialogue to give you the depiction of where the story was set and how they lived was very interesting.
This story can appeal to many age groups and ethnicities. But it mainly focuses on African-Americans who lived in the south. It tells you about the way blacks were secluded from whites, and basically had their own cities. Throughout this novel you never really hear about any whites, except at the beginning with Janie and her white friends. It also shows how blacks had to employ each other and themselves by opening shops in their towns, farm, or raise enough food for just their family. I am pretty sure if you ask someone who was around back then they would be able to relate to this story in some way.
In certain categories this could be considered a great American novel, but in some categories it is lacking. This does not quite fit the depiction with the family who has achieved the life of the “American Dream”. There will never be a great American novel in my opinion. The great American novel will have to target more than one group of people and that may be very difficult to do. This book for example is more appealing to blacks, and therefore it may not reach out to other cultures as it does the black community. Although it may not be a great American novel it does have some of the qualities. It includes suspense, humor, and a realistic character base.
I had a very strong personal connection to this book and Zora Neale Hurston. Me being a black young woman who lives in the south is probably one of the main reasons. Many times when I was reading this book it made me want to put myself in Janie’s shoes and feel, see, and hear what she was going through. Books like this make me motivated to keep going. After all of her failed attempts at finding love Janie kept going. This keeps me going and always gives me something to look upon when I get discouraged. Three of four of my grandparents are still living today and I sometimes wonder how it was when their parents were alive back then. I wonder if their lives were similar to some of the things that happened in this story. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially teenagers who are in need of a life lesson.
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