Amanda's Reviews > Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
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Jun 07, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: kick-ass, blog
Read in October, 2012 , read count: 5

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 independence for which she longs; however, this is not due to the racism or prejudices of white society (in fact, there isn't a prominent white character in the book). Instead, Hurston takes a fascinating look at intraracial racism. Janie's obvious "whiteness" sets her apart from the black community. At first, she's envied for her pretty hand-me-down dresses and hair ribbons that she obtains from the kind white family for which her grandmother works. Coupled with her straight hair (which hangs down to her waist), her exquisite beauty, and her light skin, she defies color categorization and leaves the question of "What is black?" lacking a definite answer. Later, she's an outcast because her second husband's "big voice" and quest for power in the all black community of Eatonville comes to be identified with the white masters of days gone by, and Janie comes to be seen in the role of the Southern plantation "mistress."

In addition, Hurston explores the repression of women in a patriarchal society. Janie's grandmother tells her that the black woman is the "mule of the world," the lowest of the low. Janie finds this to be true in her first two marriages, as she is treated like property by Logan Killicks and is later objectified by Jody Starks. It isn't until she meets Tea Cake, a man half her age, that Janie begins to live life on her own terms and not by the definition her man has set forth for her.

Whether you like the novel or not, it's importance to African-American and feminist literature is undeniable.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
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Quotes Amanda Liked

Zora Neale Hurston
“She didn't read books so she didn't know that she was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop.”
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Reading Progress

09/29/2009 page 1
0.39% "Re-reading to teach."
10/09/2011 page 40
17.0% "Yearly re-read."
02/19/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Amanda, I think you might mean "intraracial racism," no?

message 2: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Very good review, expressive and sympathetic.

Amanda Daniel wrote: "Amanda, I think you might mean "intraracial racism," no?"

Bah, yes. I didn't catch that. Thanks for the correction!

message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I hope I wasn't too much of a dick about it, Amanda. I realized after the fact I might have sounded like one. I really didn't mean to be.

Amanda No, I didn't take it that way at all. I should have realized it when I wrote it. That's what happens when I dash off a quick review before bed!

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Nice review. This is a book I had to read twice for school. The first time, when I was 15, I hated it. Then I read it a couple of years ago when I was in college and it left me emotionally distraught. She does a really great job with Janie and Tea Cake's relationship. I've been meaning to read more of her work.

Amanda Anthony wrote: "Nice review. This is a book I had to read twice for school. The first time, when I was 15, I hated it. Then I read it a couple of years ago when I was in college and it left me emotionally distraug..."

Thanks! I know what you mean--the first time I read it for college I thought it was kind of meh. I appreciated why it was important, but that was about it. Now I re-read it every year for the AP Lit class that I teach and I think I like it better with each reading.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

The part where the buzzards talk is one on of my favorite passages.

message 9: by Carol. (new) - added it

Carol. I loved the line about "not being a queen or a mule" (very rough paraphrasing) in her relationships--it's stuck with me for twenty years.

message 10: by Phal (new) - added it

Phal Sovannrath why i can't open and read it. ? Sh*t.. ><

Amanda Killer wrote: "Thanks for your review, Amanda. Makes me glad that genealogical research has confirmed that I am a mutt of multitudinous dimensions."

That's funny because whenever people ask me about my genealogy, I usually just answer with "I'm a mutt." There's so much going on there, it would be hard to parse it all out! :)

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