Musings on Their Eyes Were Watching God

May 23, 2013 § 1 Comment

“She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.” 

I had to read this book for my college Modern American Literature module this semester. An absolutely fantastic module, I must say, where we had to read some wonderful works. This being one of those wonderful works.

I had been wanting to read this particular book for quite a while but had just never gotten around to it, so I was doubly excited to be reading and analysing it for one of my classes. It not only lived up to my expectations but far surpassed it.

Hurston’s writing style is absolutely wonderful. Her use of black English in the book works so incredibly well and manages to tell both the individual tale of our protagonist Janie and the collective tale of African Americans and their treatment in the United States. It also manages to highlight aspects of both gender and racial discourse, frequently merging them together.

I feel like this is just one of those books that you really have to read to understand. It’s a combination of plot, character and writing that truly makes the book. The plot focuses on the ultimate liberation of a black woman in an incredibly interesting way, highlighting the importance of black culture and black voice and the importance of orality and speech. At the same time it explores the character of Janie in a way that doesn’t necessarily focus on her individual character but manages to narrate the broad spectrum of characters, and specifically the culture built by these character, who live in Eatonville, Florida; the first black town in America. And the writing, I could simply go on about but you should probably stop reading about the writing and just read it yourself. It’s a wonderful mixture of black English and individual narration, mixed with collective narration that doesn’t initially sound like it’s going to work at all, but Hurston manages to make it work perfectly to tell the story.

This book is what I would call a must-read and I can definitely understand why they call it a modern classic. Have any of you read the book? And if so, what are your thoughts?

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