Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. "I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.“ - Letter from Zora Neale Hurston to Countee Cullen Hurston's Words. Objectives.
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Zora Neale Hurston
"I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.“
- Letter from Zora Neale Hurston to Countee Cullen
Students will analyze how author’s construct characters and how characters affect theme
Students will evaluate Hurston’s use of dialect and its effects on the reader
Students will connect historical and biographical information with the text
Students will apply appropriate critical strategies to the text
In 1925, her story, "Spunk," and her play, "Color Struck," won second place in a literary contest
writers of the 1900s
stories, an autobiography, essays,
articles and plays
brilliant writers: Ralph Ellison,
Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones,
Alice Walker, and Toni Cade
First published in 1937
Largely ignored by male reviewers
Reissued in 1978 to staggering popularity
“There is no book more important to me than this one.”—Alice Walker
End of WWI—middle of the Great Depression
“alienation, marginality, folk material, the use of the blues tradition, the problems of writing for an elite audience”
W. E. B. Dubois coined the term “two-ness,” the awareness of your identity divided in two: "One ever feels his two-ness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled stirrings: two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
“More than just a literary movement: it included racial consciousness, "the back to Africa" movement led by Marcus Garvey, racial integration, the explosion of music particularly jazz, spirituals and blues…”
Based on what you know of Hurston’s life, why does she write Their Eyes Were Watching God?
What parallels can you draw between the story and her life? The characters and her life?
“Her placid childhood and privileged academic background are often cited as major reasons for her work's general lack of stress on racism…” (Columbia Encyclopedia).
A writer's material is controlled by publishers who think of the Negro as picturesque. ... There is an over-simplification of the Negro. He is either pictured by the conservatives as happy, picking his banjo, or by the so-called liberals as low, miserable, and crying. The Negro's life is neither of these. Rather, it is in-between and above and below these pictures."
“I used to climb to the top of one of the huge chinaberry trees which guarded our front gate and look out over the world. The most interesting thing that I saw was the horizon.... It grew upon me that I ought to walk out to the horizon and see what the end of the world was like” (Hurston).
How does each character contribute to the theme of Their Eyes Were Watching God?
What does each character come to represent?
To what extent does Janie acquire her own voice and the ability to shape her own life?
How are the two related?
Does Janie's telling her story to Pheoby in flashback undermine her ability to tell her story directly in her own voice?
In what ways does Janie conform to or diverge from the assumptions that underlie the men's attitudes toward women?
How would you explain Hurston's depiction of violence toward women?
After Joe Starks's funeral, Janie realizes that "She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her."
"When I went about asking, in carefully-accented Barnardese, `Pardon me, do you know any folktales or folk-songs?' the men and women who had whole treasuries of material seeping through their pores looked at me and shook their heads. No, they had never heard of anything like that around here. Maybe it was over in the next county. Why didn't I try over there?"
Evaluate: Which of the interpretations is most valid? Explain and support your answer
After reading the novel, learning about the Hurston’s background, as well as analyzing character and theme, what do you think was Hurston’s main purpose in writing Their Eyes Were Watching God?