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Their Eyes Were Watching God [Kindle Edition]

Zora Neale Hurston
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (831 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $1.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

Editorial Reviews Review

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 sometime-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.

Of Hurston's fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God is arguably the best-known and perhaps the most controversial. The novel follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman living in the black town of Eaton, Florida. Hurston sets up her characters and her locale in the first chapter, which, along with the last, acts as a framing device for the story of Janie's life. Unlike Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hurston does not write explicitly about black people in the context of a white world--a fact that earned her scathing criticism from the social realists--but she doesn't ignore the impact of black-white relations either:

It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.
One person the citizens of Eaton are inclined to judge is Janie Crawford, who has married three men and been tried for the murder of one of them. Janie feels no compulsion to justify herself to the town, but she does explain herself to her friend, Phoeby, with the implicit understanding that Phoeby can "tell 'em what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf."

Hurston's use of dialect enraged other African American writers such as Wright, who accused her of pandering to white readers by giving them the black stereotypes they expected. Decades later, however, outrage has been replaced by admiration for her depictions of black life, and especially the lives of black women. In Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston breathes humanity into both her men and women, and allows them to speak in their own voices. --Alix Wilber


'For me, Their eyes were watching God is one of the very greatest American novels of the 20th century. It is so lyrical it should be sentimental; it is so passionate it should be overwrought, but it is instead a rigorous, convincing and dazzling piece of prose, as emotionally satisfying as it is impressive. There is no novel I love more' Zadie Smith

Product Details

  • File Size: 371 KB
  • Print Length: 266 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060199490
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reissue edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000UMN7C6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
342 of 358 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably Hurston's greatest gift to world literature September 23, 2001
"There Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston, is widely acknowledged as a beloved classic of American literature. This novel is truly one of those great works that remains both entertaining and deeply moving; it is a book for classrooms, for reading groups of all types, and for individual readers.
In "There Eyes," Hurston tells the life story of Janie, an African-American woman. We accompany Janie as she experiences the very different men in her life. Hurston's great dialogue captures both the ongoing "war of the sexes," as well as the truces, joys, and tender moments of male-female relations. But equally important are Janie's relationships with other Black women. There are powerful themes of female bonding, identity, and empowerment which bring an added dimension to this book.
But what really elevates "Their Eyes" to the level of a great classic is Hurston's use of language. This is truly one of the most poetic novels in the American canon. Hurston blends the engaging vernacular speech of her African-American characters with the lovely "standard" English of her narrator, and in both modes creates lines that are just beautiful.
"Their Eyes" captures the universal experiences of pain and happiness, love and loss. And the whole story is told with both humor and compassion. If you haven't read it yet, read it; if you've already read it, read it again.
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137 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Masterpiece, well worth reading October 17, 2007
"Their Eyes were Watching God" has been variously described as feminist literature (though written in 1930), African-American literature (though the story is about people, first and foremost, and race is secondary to the novel) and as a lost masterpiece. It's a lost masterpiece. Thanks to Alice Walker and Oprah Winfrey, the book was brought back to the public's attention.

One of the issues with reading Hurston's novel is that it's written in dialect--in Hurston's rendition of how Southern Florida black dialect could be spelled out to her. So reading the book is a bit slow; you have to sound out the words in your mind. If this is a problem, then I'd suggest you listen to the book on tape (ably performed by Ruby Dee) and then read the book afterwards.

The story has barely a plot; Janey is a young woman whose grandmother was born in slavery. Her aspirations are no further than the front porch; to live in comfort means being simply able to sit, to sit on the porch and not be in constant motion, working every hour of every day for bare subsistence. She finds an older, established husband for Janey and insists she marry. Janey, then, has a life where, with reasonable work, she can fill her belly and sleep in shelter. Her life is not much better than that of a well-cared-for mule.

One day, Janey runs off with Jody Starks, a man of means who charms her with his worldy ways. This is a man going places. And they do go places; to Eatonville, a town that was chartered as an African-American community. Starks sees opportunity in every corner of dusty Eatonville, buys land, builds a store and a house and installs the beautiful Janey as a symbol of his mastery.

As Mayor, Starks has appearances to keep up.
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74 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every woman's hero. January 27, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
At the end, I closed the book and I cried. Then I wanted to open it and start reading all over again from the beginning. Janie is a woman who has endured oppression, suppression, and tragedy. She found love and she found herself. She not only survived but discovered her own strength and accepted life without self-destructing. Janie, is every woman's hero, most certainly mine.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel; thank you to my AP English Class May 29, 2000
By Anon
This is one of those obscure but great novels--and writers--that I probably never would have discovered or read if it were not for my AP English class (it was on my required summer reading list; which only adds to my already hefty personal reading list, which is ever growing.)I at first wondered why a highschool teacher chose a work not as known or recognized, but figured it out when I realized how local the books setting was (I live in Orlando, FL, which is between most of the settings in the book, and made mention of several times.) But enough of how I came about reading it...
Hurston's novel turned out to be a beautifuly told tale. The insight into the main character, Janie Crawford, was very strong and eloquently told. Also, if you love a lot of beautiful imagery, this is a good example. Every chapter opened--and many closed--with though provoking metaphors and philosophies. The oft-aclaimed dialogue (written in the afro-american dialect of the time period) added a lot to the atmosphere. One of the few, and relatively minor criticisms I can find in this book is that large amounts of space are lost between chapters, and in some cases within them, without transition which is jarring and pulls you out of the fictional dream.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book. It has a beautiful story and is beautifully told.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thier Eyes....wonderfully rendered May 27, 2008
Format:Audio CD
This audio production on CD of Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is beautifully read by Ruby Dee. Hurston was known for her ability to write in the dialect of the rural South, thereby imbuing her work with a verisimilitude that makes it possible for a modern reader to feel connected to her characters in a visceral way. However, while trying to read the print edition of this marvelous story, I found myself often reading aloud. In effect, I had to translate as I went, which was frustrating. By listenig to Ruby Dee's inspired reading, I was able to be transported directly to the time & place depicted in Hurston's masterwork. The story of Janie's life, her increasing awareness of herself as a woman, and then as a Black woman, during a time when both were de-valued, is full of drama, and hope. I'm very glad that Zora Neale Hurston was 're-discovered' in time for me to discover her for myself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary classic
I can't add anything more than what others have said. I love this book. it's one of my all time favorites.
Published 5 hours ago by NCR
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book as well
Love this book as well, quite possibly the first book I had ever read, read it in high school, that focused on female empowerment and the transgression from a child into an adult... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Maribel
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
I fell in love with Janie and Phoeby and Tea cake. The characters were so well developed and the story so believable that I could not put this book down. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Carmyn W
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the story line
Loved the story line, I wished that it could have been longer, I didn't want to stop reading. Really brought to light what, black women , in particular have come through. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Lenny Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars and I loved it! It was so well-written and I thoroughly ...
I read this book because it was required reading for my grandson in college, and I loved it! It was so well-written and I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters!
Published 5 days ago by elizabeth hebert
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
As I began this book I thought that it was going to be touch to read with the phonetic dialogue, however, once the story starts to take shape it was nearly impossible to put down. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Adam
5.0 out of 5 stars To know yourself . . . and to be true to yourself
How wise Janie was! To lead her life on her terms, taking the lows and highs of life in stride. Sometimes we're left with only the memories. Highly recommended.
Published 13 days ago by jw
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great service thanks
Published 14 days ago by Zenaida F. Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars A Complex Read
This is a book that I had not read before but I read it now because it was on a book club list. At first I had difficulty with the idiomatic language but, after a while, caught... Read more
Published 15 days ago by P. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Required school reading
I bought this as required reading for my son for school. It was much easier than going out and tracking it down locally.
Published 15 days ago by Jennifer Sloan
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