Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read Their Eyes Were Watching God in preparation for teaching the novel to my AP Literature and Composition students. I had heard of the book for years, but never expressed much interest. Maybe it was the time period, or the characters, or the subject matter that didn't appeal, but I never took the initiative to pick this book up.
But...I'm glad that I did. This is a marvelous work of fiction and deserving of its place on the same list with other literary greats.
Hurston's style is interesting. At times I struggled with the southern speech. I often needed an adjustment period when I would begin reading, but after a few pages of dialogue I would find myself reading these lines of dialect without any trouble. As a general rule I don't much care for writer's use of dialect, and here I felt it was just okay. I don't think it added as much as say Twain's use of dialect in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I also noticed that Hurston has a tremendous ability to provide the reader with beautiful and interesting images. She does include her fair share of lyrical language, which you know that I love.
I won't go into too much detail on the plot as others have done that to excess and you can read their reviews if you really want to know what the novel is about. What I found interesting is the fact that this story is really three stories that are all interconnected through one character: Janie. Her three marriages are the three different tales that this book weaves and it is interesting that this is what Hurston focused on. Janie grows as she experiences being married to these three very different men, and I would say that each marriage improves upon the last. But because of the way these stories are approached, it is almost as if we have three completely different characters named Janie. Three versions of the same person. I think there is a lot to be said about this aspect of the novel. How people change throughout their lives and could you really say that I am now the same person that I was when I was 16. We want and care about wildly different things. We act, speak, and live very differently. So, is the sixteen-year-old me really me? This is the wonderful depth that Hurston evokes with her main character.
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