Saturday, October 6, 2007

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Reviewed by Rebecca Stuhr

Janie is suddenly back in town after having left it to marry a younger man. The community disapproved and now imagines her having been abandoned and left destitute. Janie, however, has another story, and she still has one friend who is willing to hear the truth. Janie's tale is the basis for the rest of Hurston's novel. To set the community straight, Janie starts from the beginning. She explains how she came to marry her first husband and why she left him for the dashing and ambitious Jodie, and then, after Jodie's death, how she was swept off her feet by the younger, romantic, fun loving, and yet still hard working Tea Cake. Janie's story of her life with Tea Cake is one of love and devotion. Hurston's writing is poetic and moving. Her descriptions of life in an all black community, where Janie lives with Jodie, and life on the Everglades, where she lives with Tea Cake, are detailed and colorful. While in many ways a novel about love, Hurston does not hide from issues of race or the difficulties faced by those in close relationships including jealousy and insecurity. Hurston's details of everyday life, her evocative dialog, and carefully developed characters make this a compelling narrative. Her terrifying description of the hurricane that slammed through southern Florida, breaching the dike around Lake Okeechobee, and the ensuing devastation are especially vivid.

The Grinnell College libraries have a 1978 edition published by the University of Illinois Press.
PS 3515 .U789 T43x 1978.

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