Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Date Finished: Feb 21, 2009 #8
Published: 1937 Pages: 184
Well, I am happy to announce that my reader is now at zero. YAY!! And the classics challenge sign up is posted. And I'll finish my quilt in the next few days (maybe even today!!). I'm feeling much more settled and caught up. But, I'm going to Hawaii on Saturday...so I'm guessing it will be back to normal when I return (normal=chaos).
I can't believe I haven't read Their Eyes Were Watching God until now. I've read a handful of Hurston's short stories, and I've even seen the movie Oprah produced several years ago, but I never made time for the book. It's only 184 pages long, but the story contains so much depth.
Their Eyes Were Watching God begins when forty-year-old Janie returns to her hometown ragged and worn, wearing overalls and her hair swinging down her back. The town is all a flutter at her return, speculating that her last husband, Tea Cake, has left her and run with her money. Janie sits down with her best friend Pheoby and tells her the true story of what has happened. Her story includes three marriages, a lot of heartache and a lot of love. World's shortest summary, but because of the progressive nature of the story it is difficult to give more without spoilers.
The story is set during the Reconstruction era in the deep south. The characters are African American, so the themes of slavery and oppression and African American folklore are very prominent in the book. I loved the richness of this book and the language that Hurston uses to describe the feelings and emotions of the characters. On the other hand, she also writes in the vernacular of the people. At first this was difficult for me to read and it felt like I was trying to read a different language, but I finally got into the rhythm of the speech and the vernacular provided an extra layer of richness to the text.
Since I don't really want to go more into the actual story, I'll leave you with a few of my favorite lines (both to get a taste of the vernacular and Hurston's descriptions).
Granny speaking to Janie about going out with men:
"Ah don't want yo' feathers always crumpled by folks throwin' up things in yo' face. And Ah can't die easy thinkin' maybe de menfolks white or black is makin' a spit cup outa out: Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me down easy, Janie, Ah'm a cracked plate" (19).
Janie on her first marriage:
"She knew things that nobody had ever told her. For instance, the words of the trees and the wind. She often spoke to the falling seeds and said, "Ah hope you fall on soft ground," because she had heard seeds saying that to each other as they passed. She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether. She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up...She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman" (24).
Janie on Tea Cake:
"She couldn't make him look just like any other man to her. He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom - a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a glance from God" (101).
Last line--maybe **spoiler**:
The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see" (184).
Hope everyone's having a happy Sunday!