Their Eyes Were Watching God
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Transcript of Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston"I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.
- Letter from Zora Neale Hurston to Countee CullenHurston's WordsObjectivesStudents will analyze how authors construct characters and how characters affect themeStudents will evaluate Hurstons use of dialect and its effects on the readerStudents will connect historical and biographical information with the textStudents will apply appropriate critical strategies to the text The woman behind the wordsWriter, folklorist, anthropologistRambunctiousJump[ed] at the sunCharmingWalk[ed] into heartsIntelligentConfidentHumorousHotheaded
Life and TimesBorn in Alabama, but Eatonville, FL was homeRelatively happy childhood until the death of her mother. Hurston was 13.That hour began my wanderingsin timein spirit.Eatonville provided a culturally affirming environment amidst the prejudice and segregation that was rampant in most of the rest of the country10 years for an education
In 1925, her story, "Spunk," and her play, "Color Struck," won second place in a literary contestStudied anthropology at Barnard CollegeConducted field researchfocused on the folklore and culture of African AmericansHarlem, throughout the rural south, HaitiUsed her own experience, her research and her creativity to create her workResponsible for preserving the folk traditions and cultural heritage of African Americans
Charlotte Osgood Masonwealthy, white patronguided Hurstons workProvided both opportunity and restrictions
Advocated writing for art's sakecontrary to writers such as Locke and Du Bois, who urged blacks to reflect a racial perspective, especially in portraying relationships with whites.
Two failed marriagesmarriage was doomed "to an early, amicable divorce" Career was priorityHurston is know to have written Sheen, remembering the idealistic dreams they shared in their youth, regretting nothing because she lived her life to the fullest
Died penniless and forgotten in 1960Grave unmarked until 1973
Interest in Hurston and work renewed by Alice Walker In Search of Zora Neale Hurston One of the most significant writers of the 1900s4 novels, folklore, many short stories, an autobiography, essays, articles and playsInfluenced and inspired many brilliant writers: Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker, and Toni Cade Bambara
Their Eyes Were Watching God First published in 1937Largely ignored by male reviewersReissued in 1978 to staggering popularityThere is no book more important to me than this one.Alice Walker
In HistoryThe Great DepressionLand of hope and opportunity to land of despairRacism as strong as ever, especially in the southern statesThe New DealGave black Americans opportunities lacked in the pastBrought their struggles to light for the NorthernersThe Federal Music Project, Federal Theatre Project, and Federal Writers Project enabled black artists to find work during the depression art or stories which portrayed the historic and present situation of blacks in the South.
The Harlem RenaissanceEnd of WWImiddle of the Great Depression
alienation, marginality, folk material, the use of the blues tradition, the problems of writing for an elite audience
W. E. B. Dubois coined the term two-ness, the awareness of your identity divided in two: "One ever feels his two-ness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled stirrings: two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
More than just a literary movement: it included racial consciousness, "the back to Africa" movement led by Marcus Garvey, racial integration, the explosion of music particularly jazz, spirituals and blues
Author ConnectionBased on what you know of Hurstons life, why does she write Their Eyes Were Watching God?What parallels can you draw between the story and her life? The characters and her life?Author ConnectionHer placid childhood and privileged academic background are often cited as major reasons for her work's general lack of stress on racism (Columbia Encyclopedia).What do you think? Does Hurston fail to emphasize racism in There Eyes Were Watching God?If racism is not the focus, then what is? Why? Is Hurston doing a disservice by not focusing on the racism that was so ubiquitous in society at that time?Does Hurston succeed in illustrating this philosophy through Their Eyes Were Watching God?A writer's material is controlled by publishers who think of the Negro as picturesque. ... There is an over-simplification of the Negro. He is either pictured by the conservatives as happy, picking his banjo, or by the so-called liberals as low, miserable, and crying. The Negro's life is neither of these. Rather, it is in-between and above and below these pictures."Is Janie a literary embodiment of Hurston?I used to climb to the top of one of the huge chinaberry trees which guarded our front gate and look out over the world. The most interesting thing that I saw was the horizon.... It grew upon me that I ought to walk out to the horizon and see what the end of the world was like (Hurston).How might this interpretation affect our interpretation of theme and purpose?
Hurstons StyleAfrican-American vernacular, including rhythm and word choice and oral features of heard speech Colorful figurative language, in particular, metaphors and imageryPersonificationBiblical allusions and religious imagery Contrast between diction and tone of omniscient narrator and first person speakersItalicized opening sentence for each chapterName symbolism
CharacterHow does each character contribute to the theme of Their Eyes Were Watching God?What does each character come to represent?CharacterTo what extent does Janie acquire her own voice and the ability to shape her own life? How are the two related? Does Janie's telling her story to Pheoby in flashback undermine her ability to tell her story directly in her own voice?
CharacterIn what ways does Janie conform to or diverge from the assumptions that underlie the men's attitudes toward women? How would you explain Hurston's depiction of violence toward women?
CharacterAfter Joe Starks's funeral, Janie realizes that "She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her." Why is this important "to all the world"? In what ways does Janie's self-awareness depend on her increased awareness of others? Use of DialectHow important is Hurston's use of vernacular dialect to our understanding of Janie and the other characters and their way of life? What do speech patterns reveal about the quality of these lives and the nature of these communities? In what ways are "their tongues cocked and loaded, the only real weapon" of these people? What is lost if their words are captured in the standard English of the time?What does this quote of Hurstons imply about her use of the vernacular in her work? "When I went about asking, in carefully-accented Barnardese, `Pardon me, do you know any folktales or folk-songs?' the men and women who had whole treasuries of material seeping through their pores looked at me and shook their heads. No, they had never heard of anything like that around here. Maybe it was over in the next county. Why didn't I try over there?"Literary TheoriesCritical ApproachesFeminismDeconstructionPsychoanalytical
Evaluate: Which of the interpretations is most valid? Explain and support your answer
Hurstons PurposeAfter reading the novel, learning about the Hurstons background, as well as analyzing character and theme, what do you think was Hurstons main purpose in writing Their Eyes Were Watching God?