Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, is the story of a young woman’s journey into self-awareness, toward self-realization, and is a beautiful love story, too. “Published in September 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of Janie Crawford, a deep-thinking, deep-feeling black woman who embarks on a search for her own self.”
This book was unique (and controversial) for its time because it was written entirely in Southern Black dialect. I listened to the audiobook version, which was narrated by the brilliantly talented Ruby Dee, and I’m so glad I did because the dialect is actually another character in the book, and as important as the plot. Listening to Ruby Dee’s outstanding performance was a complete immersion into the culture of the story, and added so much depth to my understanding and appreciation of Janie’s journey.
In 2005, Oprah Winfrey produced the television movie of Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring the beautiful Halle Berry as Janie, and the stunningly handsome Michael Ealy as Tea Cake. The film was nicely done, stayed true to the book, and added another dimension to my appreciation for this book.
The beginning of the book:
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”
Janie, on Love:
“Love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”
On Tea Cake:
“Tea Cake looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom — a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a glance from God.”
“Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”
Zora Neale Hurston’s life was very interesting and worth reading about, too. In the Afterward to the book, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote an informative essay about her. She was educated at Barnard, and “published seven books–four novels, two books of folklore, and an autobiography–and more than fifty works between the middle of the Harlem Renaissance and the end of the Korean War, when she was the dominant black woman writer in the United States.”
Here are some web sites to visit to learn more about her:
- The Official Zora Neale Hurston Web Site It has lots of information, plus you an listen to an excerpt of Ruby Dee reading from the audiobook version.
This was my third book for Maggie’s Southern Reading Challenge, so I have officially completed the Challenge now. However, I plan to keep on reading because there’s such a wealth of wonderful literature in this genre, and I’ve barely scratched the surface here!