Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

 

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

     Born 1891, the 5th of 8 children of a carpenter and former school teacher

     Moved to the first all-black town in Florida when very young.

     1920 Enrolled in Howard University and began her writing career.

     1925 Moved to New York becoming major figure in Harlem Renaissance.

     By late 1940s began to have trouble publishing her work.

     Early 1950s Had to work as a maid.

     1960s Her writings were ignored as not political enough.

     1960 Died penniless, Buried in an unmarked grave until 1973 when Alice Walker placed a marker on her grave.

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.

     Janie Crawford’s return to Florida after a long absence. Confident and beautiful, she arouses people’s curiosity and they begin to slander her name.

     Her friend Pheoby Watson stays by her side and Janie begins telling her her story.

     Abandoned by her mother, Janie was raised by her loving grandmother

     Grandmother Nanny wants Janie to marry someone who can provide her with money and social status so she suggests Logan Killicks.

     Jamie moves in with Logan but he is practical and not very romantic so eventually she runs off to marry Joe Starks.

     Joe becomes mayor and Jamie is eventually bored with the monotonous life she’s leading there and wants to be part of the rich social life in town but her husband insists on shaping her to be a proper mayor’s wife and she submits.

     After 2 decades, Joe insults her and she refuses to submit anymore so she defends herself. He beats her and their marriage is over. He soon dies.

     9 months later she marries Tea Cake and leave town.

     Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog and is soon suffering from bouts of madness that result in his suspicion that Janie’s cheating on him. He fires a gun at her and she is forced to kill him.

     The all male/white jurors acquit her and she returns to her home amid gossip that her husband left her. This is where she wraps her story to Pheoby who begins to appreciate Janie’s experiences.

 

More:

     The Harlem Renaissance (1920s)

     Distinguished by outstanding creativity of African Americans.

     Participants are descendents of those whose parents were slaves.

     Artistic creation was seen as a tool to uplift the African Americans.

     Great migration of African American from south to North, to Harlem in particular.

     Examples: Hurston, W.E.B Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright.