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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Rebecca Carlson

on 30 April 2013

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Transcript of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were
Watching God Biography Born in Alabama on January 7th. Her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, when she was a young child. 1891 1917 1904 1925 Marries Herbert Sheen, whom she divorces in 1931.
She also marries Albert Price in 1939 but divorces him seven months later. 1927 Died of a stroke and was buried in an unmarked grave. Later Alice Walker found her grave and bought her a tombstone. 1960 Zora Neale Hurston Historical Context The book was challenged by a parent for its language and sexual explicitness; however, it was retained on the academically advanced reading list of a high school in Brentsville, VA (1997). Hurston's contemporaries criticized her use of dialect, believing it to be a racist caricature of African-American culture. Many fellow writers were also critical because her works did not further political movements. Janie and Zora Passage Analysis Techniques and Style Point of View Themes It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to roll in his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big houses further around the shore heard the big lake and wondered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves secure, the cabins needn’t worry. Their decision was already made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds and wait on the mercy of the Lord. The bossman might have the thing stopped before morning anyway. It is so easy to be hopeful in the day time when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands.
A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing. Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, “Big Massa draw him chair upstairs.”
“Ah’m glad y’all stop dat crap-shootin’ even if it wasn’t for money,” Janie said. “Ole Massa is doin’ His work now. Us oughta keep quiet.”
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. Hurston was born two years before the Panic of 1893
Though slavery was over, racial tensions were still high in the South
She was part of the Harlem Renaissance, which occurred during a period of postwar prosperity Literary Context
The Harlem Renaissance Even though Harlem was becoming densely populated by African Americans, racism was still prevalent
Hubert Harrison, "The Father of Harlem Radicalism," founded the Liberty League and The Voice, the first organization and the first newspaper, respectively, of the "New Negro Movement"
Harrison argued that the "Negro Literary Renaissance" notion overlooked "the stream of literary and artistic products which had flowed uninterruptedly from Negro writers from 1850 to the present", and said the so-called "renaissance" was largely a white invention Art and Music During the Harlem Renaissance The Renaissance was the emergence of the "New Negro", who used literature and art to "uplift" the race
Common themes included slavery, the emerging black identity, the effects of racism, and the question of how to properly show modern black life in a white society
Art was used to show the "human" side of the blacks, and therefore demand equality. The Renaissance allowed more black authors to be published in mainstream houses After the Harlem Renaissance The Harlem Renaissance laid the foundation for the Civil Rights movements that took place after the Great War
The Great Depression put an end to the cultural openness of the '20s
In 1937, when "Their Eyes Were Watching God" was published, African Americans felt that art should be primarily political, though Hurston disagreed "They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God." Synecdoche: substitutes "eyes" for the people Metaphor It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to roll in his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big houses further around the shore heard the big lake and wondered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves secure, the cabins needn’t worry. Their decision was already made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds and wait on the mercy of the Lord. The bossman might have the thing stopped before morning anyway. It is so easy to be hopeful in the day time when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands.
A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing. Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, “Big Massa draw him chair upstairs.”
“Ah’m glad y’all stop dat crap-shootin’ even if it wasn’t for money,” Janie said. “Ole Massa is doin’ His work now. Us oughta keep quiet.”
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. Diction It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to roll in his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big houses further around the shore heard the big lake and wondered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves secure, the cabins needn’t worry. Their decision was already made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds and wait on the mercy of the Lord. The bossman might have the thing stopped before morning anyway. It is so easy to be hopeful in the day time when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands.
A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing. Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, “Big Massa draw him chair upstairs.”
“Ah’m glad y’all stop dat crap-shootin’ even if it wasn’t for money,” Janie said. “Ole Massa is doin’ His work now. Us oughta keep quiet.”
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. Poetic Language
Some of the language offers philosophical contemplations and displays an impressive vocabulary. Vernacular
Hurston frequently uses the rich African American vernacular to vividly portray her characters. Racism African American vernacular which affects rhythm and word choice
Colorful figurative language, in particular metaphors and imagery
Personification
Biblical images and references "What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls?" "he’d be walkin’ on water lak Peter befo’ he knowed it" Controversy Personification:
Lake Okechobee (literally "big water")
Night
Lightning It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to roll in his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big houses further around the shore heard the big lake and wondered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves secure, the cabins needn’t worry. Their decision was already made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds and wait on the mercy of the Lord. The bossman might have the thing stopped before morning anyway. It is so easy to be hopeful in the day time when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands.
A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing. Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, “Big Massa draw him chair upstairs.”
“Ah’m glad y’all stop dat crap-shootin’ even if it wasn’t for money,” Janie said. “Ole Massa is doin’ His work now. Us oughta keep quiet.”
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. Mysticism and Religion Hurston had an idyllic childhood until her mother died in 1904. Her father remarried soon after and seemed to have little time for his children. Her mother always told her to "jump at de sun." Hurston attended high school at the age of 26, presenting herself as 16. From that moment forward, she would always present herself as at least 10 years younger than she actually was. Submits a story, "Spunk", and a play, "Color Struck", to a literary contest. Both win second-place award and "Spunk" is published. "There is no book more important to me than [Their Eyes Were Watching God]." - Alice Walker Zombies?! Hurston grew up in Eatonville, an important town in the novel
Like Janie, Hurston loved the trees in her garden. She would climb them to look at the horizon
Zora’s father was elected mayor of Eatonville like Janie's second husband
Both women were interested in discussions on the front porch of the general store but were unable to take part in them
Hurston had two marriages and Janie had three. They both struggled to find true love Janie and Zora They were both ambitious and had independent spirits, not bowing to conventions
They were both very beautiful and looked young for their age
They both had love affairs with men much younger than they were. Hurston admits that she used Punter as inspiration for Tea Cake's character: "I tried to embalm all the tenderness of my passion for him in Their Eyes Were Watching God"
They both had to deal with scandal and ended their lives relatively alone, yet happy Hurston studied anthropology at Barnard College. She was interested in studying zombies and helped popularize the concept in America. She claimed to be the first person to photograph one. "Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." - Zora Neale Hurston The story is told by a third person narrator sympathetic to Janie. Hurston alternates between two styles: advanced poetic language and traditional vernacular. The poetic language still maintains aspects of Janie's personality. Symbols Controversy "But for the national welfare, it is urgent to realize that the minorities do think, and think about something other than the race problem."- Zora Neale Hurston "Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."-Zora Neale Hurston Structure It is a framed narrative: the novel begins and ends with Janie talking to her best friend Phoeby. Through the frame, Hurston gives Janie a voice, even though she uses a third person perspective. Language Janie seeks her voice throughout the novel. The control of language is presented as a source of identity and power. Power Love The natural world limits power, as seen through Jody and Tea Cake. Janie, on the other hand, seeks only her identity. Fulfilling relationships should be based on mutual respect. Logan and Jody don't treat her as an equal, but Tea Cake does. Through her marriages, Janie realizes the value of independence and equality. Themes Community Janie longs to be an active part of her community and dislikes it when Jody doesn't allow her to. However, community can also bring petty gossip and rumors. Racism Mysticism and Religion Racism is a cultural force that affects blacks and whites alike. For example, Mrs. Turner is a black woman who is racist against blacks. Janie encounters divine forces throughout her spiritual journey to find her place in the world. Religion in the novel is rooted in folklore and black rural traditions blend mysticism with the traditional Christian worldview. Janie's Hair The Hurricane The Pear Tree Symbolizes her power and identity. Jody forces her to tie it up as a visible sign of her submission. When she returns to Eatonville, she leaves her hair down. Along with the horizon, it represents the idealized view of nature that Janie pursues. When she is sixteen, she sits under a blossoming pear tree, watching the union of the bees with the blossoms. It symbolizes the destructive power of nature, in contrast with the pear tree. It is an impersonal force that causes devastating chaos.
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