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Their Eyes Were Watching God Paperback – November 25, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0060931414 ISBN-10: 0060931418 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reissue edition (November 25, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060931418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060931414
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (713 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

Review

"Their Eyes belongs in the same categorywith that of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingwayof enduring American literature." -- Saturday Review

"The prototypical Black novel of affirmation; it is the most successful, convincing, and exemplary novel of Blacklove that we have. Period." -- June Jordon, Black World

"There is no book more important to me than this one." -- Alice Walker


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Customer Reviews

The story in itself is simple and beautiful, both in the characters and Ms. Hurston's way with words.
Butro78
This was a great book and tho it's a difficult read once you get use to the dialect it's an enjoyable story.
TweetLisa
She knows what the perfect love feels like, she knows what she wants from life, she finds her own voice.
Twiggfoot

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

327 of 342 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on September 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
"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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130 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
"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.
Read more ›
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72 of 78 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 2000
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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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Anon on May 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Avid Rita on August 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Funny how folks seem to love this or hate it. I admire the author's creativeness in the context of her time: the use of vernacular was quite creative at the time, and brings the reader intimately to the story. The very subject matter, a young black woman on a journey of self discovery-- easy to take for granted today how remarkable this publication must have been. That said, as a contemporary reader I didn't love this book and had to push myself to finish it (for my book club). Hard to care for this protaganist who passively scribes herself in relation to a succession of husbands. I just didn't like the person she was! But worth trying for yourself, I think.
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