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What is the American Dream? . Journal~5 minutes. Their Eyes Were Watching God. By Zora Neale Hurston. http:// Zora Neale Hurston: Soul of the People.

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their eyes were watching god

Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston

life work legacy

Life: Zora was born in 1891 as one of 8 children. Her father moved them to Eatonville, FL to the first all-black town to be incorporated in America. He served several terms as Mayor of the town.

  • Hurston worked domestically as a teen before going to college in the north.  She earned an associates degree from Howard University and began her fascination with writing there.
  • She moved to NYC to study with one of the century’s greatest anthropologists, Franz Boas, focusing on black rural folklore.
  • While there, she became part of the Harlem Renaissance and with Langston Hughes, founded a literary journal, Fire, which helped to establish the literature of the movement
  • Eventually, Zora saw the decline of her literary career and had to go back to housework. She died of a stroke alone, penniless, and in poverty in 1960. She was buried in an unmarked grave.
Life ~ Work ~ Legacy
life work legacy1

Work: Published most of her work—novels and short stories—in the 20s and 30s. Their Eyes was published in quieter years of 1937.

  • Huston’s work was recognized at the time by white literary critics and was swept up in the movement of the Harlem Renaissance
  • However, Black critics distained her work because it lacked an overt political message or moral—it was not a black power manifesto—and was deemed a frivolous woman’s novel.
Life ~ Work ~ Legacy
life work legacy2

Legacy: Her work was rediscovered in the mid 1970s by Alice Walker and has been appreciated ever since as one of the finest African American writers, and as a female before her time.

  • Her writing is unique because it defies classification—could be considered with other Harlem Renaissance pieces, early feminist literature, or southern folklore.
Life ~ Work ~ Legacy

Florida, c. 1920s-1930s

  • Opens in Eatonville – an all-black community full of gossips. Jody was the mayor and improver.  Janie currently trapped in role of the mayors wife—a trophy.
  • Janie’s childhood home – She lives with grandma on the land of a plantation owner. Works for whites, the only life Grandma knew. Janie’s only escape was to marry.
  • Everglades – “the Muck”. Blacks work in the bean fields during the day, drink, dance, and socialize at night. Janie works, too, and feels free to be herself with Tea Cake.


  • Janie Mae Crawford: dynamic protagonist, woman full of change and contradictions, her maturity is gained when she can recognize the abuse of the ones close to her and when she can make decisions for herself; always desires “the horizon,” seeks to be loved as she is, values intimacy, a strong symbol of independent womanhood  


  • Phoeby: static, Janie’s closest friend in Eatonville, story is framed by Janie relating her story to Phoeby, the opposite foil of Janie (no bravery, submits to husband, cautious)
  • Nanny Crawford: static, raised Janie, loved her, but that meant wanting stability and a pedestal for her, not understanding of Janie
  • Logan Killicks: first husband, a hard worker who owns land, cannot see Janie as anything other than a working wife
  • Jody Stark: static, second husband, an ambitious self-made man, sees Janie as a trophy, another accomplishment
  • Tea Cake: static, third husband, twelve years Janie’s junior, a drifting nobody who treats Janie as she dreamed, loves her and makes sacrifices; made more realistic by the fact that he stole from her once and beat her once

Janie returns to Eatonville in dirty overalls, recalls her wanderings to Phoeby (the frame)

  • Raised by Nanny, reaches the realization of puberty under a pear tree by kissing Johnny Taylor
  • At 16, she’s married off to Logan Killicks—unhappy, cries to Nanny because there is no love
  • At 17, runs away to marry Jody Starks, settles in Eatonville where Jody makes something of himself and the town
  • Lives 20 years in Eatonville, runs the store with Jody—no connection between them—looked at as the example for all women in  town and the trophy for all men
  • Liberates herself from her unhappy relationship with Jody while he’s on his deathbed, declares her desires
  • Takes up with Tea Cake soon after and runs off to marry him
  • Lives happily with Tea Cake fore several years, working and loving in the Everglades
  • They narrowly escape a hurricane, Tea Cake infected with rabies, Janie forced to shoot him in self-defense
  • Janie tried for his murder, not guilty, returns to Eatonville sad, but a true woman and true to herself

Man vs. Self: Janie goes through a life-long struggle of doing what makes her happy, or giving into what others believe she should be.

  • Man vs. Man: Janie in conflict with just about every character in the book—different husbands, granny, women of the town—all surrounding their ideals for her and her ideals for herself

Views of the south, the people

  • Natural imagery is associated by Janie with good, industrial=bad, manipulative

The Pear Tree

  • The Horizon
  • Rising and Setting Sun
  • The Hurricane

Speech and Silence

  • Quest for self-revelation
  • Love and Relationships v. Independence
quote analysis

Context (1-2 sentences)

    • 1. Speaker
    • 2. Setting
    • 3. Plot
  • Analysis (3-5 sentences)
    • 1. Conflict—what is going on?
    • 2. Significance
    • 3. Connection to theme
Quote Analysis
in class quote analysis

“The years took all the fight out of Janie’s face. For awhile she thought it was gone from her soul. No matter what Jody did, she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave some. She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beatnen down by the wheels. Sometimes she stuck out into the future, imagining her life different from what it was. But mostly she lived between her hat and her heel, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods—come and gone with the sun. She got nothing from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving away what she didn’t value” (76).

In-class quote analysis
your homework

Choose a quote to analyze. Copy the quote on your paper or document. Follow steps to write a solid analysis paragraph. Due Wednesday, August 21st.

  • Work on Summer Reading project!—due September 6th. I will accept early!
Your Homework!