Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thoughts: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


When I first picked up Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, I thought the book would be ridiculously boring. The cause? My copy’s tedious Foreword. I’m really glad I persevered—i.e. skipped the Foreword and started reading the first chapter—because the book is now one of my all-time favorites.

At the age of seventeen, Janie's grandmother urges her to marry an older man for his huge property. Thinking that love automatically comes with marriage, Janie agrees, and is disappointed when she learns that he wants a farm hand, not a wife. She runs away with the smooth-talking Joe, who, once again, doesn’t want a wife, just a beautiful trophy. When Joe dies, Janie becomes a well-off widow, and meets the younger Tea Cake. Despite the age difference, they fall in love, and Janie finally begins to discover who she really is.

I can’t rave enough about this book. Hurston’s writing is so beautiful, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The whole time I was reading, I felt like I had a piece of pink cotton candy in my mouth—for some reason, Hurston’s prose just tastes sweet. She puts the most unexpected words together, and infuses them with profound meaning that made me stop to think A LOT. At first, I was intimidated by the use of Ebonics in the novel, but it was actually pretty easy to read after the first couple of pages.

Janie is a wonderful female character. As a young girl, she allows other people to make crucial decisions for her. Joe, for example, wouldn’t let her laugh and talk to the other men in town. He wanted her to stay in their store, and to keep quiet. Slowly, she learned to stand up for herself, and discovered who she really was. That’s saying a lot about a novel first published in 1937. Next to Janie, Tea Cake, her third husband, is also a great character. Except for one incident in the novel, they treated each other like equals, and he was the first person who let her come out of her shell.

The edition I own has an Afterword, and I skipped that one, too. After reading the last page, I simply put the book down, and thought about people whose eyes are still watching God. Personally, I think we all wonder why certain bad things happens to us, and we all have a lot of questions that God will probably never answer. But that’s life, though, and Their Eyes Were Watching God is still making me think long and hard about it.

Rating: 5/5 I will definitely reread this book.

P.S: If you’ve read this book, what did you think of the ending? I really need to talk about it. *Starts jumping up and down.*

14 comments:

Trish said...

I haven't read this but your review certainly inspires me to pick up a copy next time I across one. And, yeah, I'm not good with forewords and afterwords either. Just the book, please, just the book.

Amanda said...

I adore Zora Neale Hurston and this was the first book I read by her. I love her style of oral writing even though I normally don't like dialect in books. She makes it work!

Red said...

I've heard good things about this book but I think the dialect is going to keep me away from it, at least for awhile. Maybe I'll try it as an audiobook at some point.

Zibilee said...

I haven't read this book yet, but have wanted to. Your enthusiastic thoughts on it make me want to rush right out and get it, so I am going to have to see where it can be had. I would love to discuss the ending with you when I am done, but I am not sure when that will be!

Vasilly said...

I just finished this book and I couldn't agree more with you. What a wonderful book!

Ben said...

This novel has one of the strongest first lines. Might check it out.

llevinso said...

I agree that the writing was beautiful and it was a captivating story but it infuriated me. I was expecting it to be a great feminist tale but I didn’t like a single one of her husbands, Tea Cake included. As a result I ended up not liking Janie very much either.

Emily said...

I've been meaning to read this book for a long time! Glad you liked it--I'll have to read it in the near future.

Avid Reader said...

I thought this one was fascinating! The ending was pretty amazing and dramatic. I’ve wanted to watch the movie version to see how it holds up. I loved watching Janie discover herself and her own strength, but it was also heartbreaking to watch her loose her love.

Allie said...

I am planning on getting to this one this week. I subbed for another teacher during my prep hour earlier this year and her class had just finished this one. Their discussion made me go out and buy it, but I haven't had a chance to dive in yet!

Trisha said...

I read this book, and two months later I had my students reading it. I just love it. I agree that the writing is spectacular and Janie is such a wonderful character.

Misha said...

I haven't read this book, but it's on my TBR pile. Your review makes me want to read the book soon. I usually skip forwards too.

Erin said...

I love, love, LOVE this book. I read it first in high school and really didn't get it, but when I reread it in college, it became one of my favorite books. I love the writing, I love Janie. I haven't read it in a few years, but I can refresh my memory and discuss the ending if you still need to do that. Just send me an email (erinreadsblog {at} gmail {dot} com) :-)

Teacher/Learner said...

I was excited to find a copy of this in my last huge book splurge and your review makes me want to yank it out of the box. Soon, soon...*she promises*

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