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Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
About the Author At the height of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston was the preeminent black woman writer in the United States. She was a sometimes-collaborator with Langston Hughes and a fierce rival of Richard Wright. Her stories appeared in major magazines, she consulted on Hollywood screenplays and she penned four novels, an autobiography, countless essays and two books on black mythology. Yet by the late 1950s, Hurston was living in obscurity, working as a maid in a Florida hotel. She died in 1960 in a Welfare home, was buried in an unmarked grave and quickly faded from literary consciousness until 1975 when Alice Walker almost single-handedly revived interest in her work.
Book Description One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic,
Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness,fear or foolish romantic dreams. It is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published - perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.
Reader’s Guide 1. Why does Janie choose to tell her story only to her best friend Pheoby? How does Pheoby respond at the end of Janie's tale? 2. Hurston uses nature-the pear tree, the ocean, the horizon, the hurricane-not only as a plot device but also as metaphor. Describe the ways these function as both. Can you think of others? 3. The novel's action begins and ends with two judgment scenes. Why are both groups of people judging her? Is either correct in its assessment? 4. Many readers consider the novel a
bildungsroman, or coming-of-age novel, as Janie journeys through three marriages. What initially attracts her to each man? What causes her to leave? What does she learn from each experience? 5. In the novel, speech is used as a mechanism of control and liberation, especially as Janie struggles to find her voice. During which important moments of her life is Janie silent? How does she choose when to speak out or to remain quiet? 6. Is there a difference between the language of the men and that of Janie or the other women? How do the novel's first two paragraphs point to these differences? 7. The elaborate burial of the town mule draws from an incident Hurston recounts in Tell My Horse, where the Haitian president ordered an elaborate Catholic funeral for his pet goat. Although this scene is comic, how is it also tragic? 8. Little of Hurston's work was published during the Harlem Renaissance, yet her ability to tell witty stories and to stir controversy made her a favorite guest at elite Harlem parties. Identify several passages of wit and humor in Their Eyes Were Watching God. 9. How does the image of the black woman as "the mule of the world" become a symbol for the roles Janie chooses or refuses to play during her quest? 10. What do the names of Janie's husbands-Logan Killicks, Jody Starks, Vergible "Tea Cake" Woods-tell us about their characters and their relationships with Janie? 11. What kind of God are the eyes of Hurston's characters watching? What crucial moments of the plot does the title allude to? Does this God ever answer Janie's questioning? 12. Re-read the last three pages of the novel. How do the imagery and tone connect with other moments in the novel? Does Janie's story end in triumph, despair, or a mixture of both?