Home > Free Essays > Literature > American Literature > African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston

African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston Term Paper

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Apr 9th, 2021

Zora Neale Hurston was one of the greatest writers of her time. A lot of her literary works received outstanding appreciation from both her readers and other literal writers. In her career as a writer, Zora Hurston wrote a total of seven books. She further wrote innumerable short stories, magazine articles and play scripts. One of her most celebrated works is the book titled Their Eyes Were Watching God. This essay will give a short account of Zora Hurston’s life in relation to her career. It will further discuss various aspects of the above book that later led to the creation of a movie.

Zora Neale Hurston was unquestionably the leading black female writer of her time (Jones 23). Her excellent creativity and beautiful description saw the development of her career as a writer from one level to another. She was part of a consortium of African American writers in the first half of the twentieth century. The writers were actively involved in the fight against racism. Most of her magazine articles and plays focused on the issue of discrimination and racial segregation in the United States of America.

Hurston’s career underwent a series of transformations. While she started off by predominantly writing short stories, she ended up writing as a folklorist, a novelist and finally as an anthropologist. However, her writing style remained intact and captivating to her readers (Louis 17). In this process, Hurston also collaborated with other African American writers. For instance, she was once a contributor to Charles Johnson’s “A journal of Negro Life.” She also produced other works with the likes of Langston Hughes and George Antheil.

Nevertheless, Hurston’s popularity in the literary world declined over time. Her works failed to hold the attention of the literary world for long. Her career life was also interrupted by her prolonged illness that led to her death. Her death further reduced the popularity of her works until the release of her biography in 1977.

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston tells the story of a young lady who is caught between love, materialism and male chauvinism. Janie, who is brought up by her grandmother after her mother runs off, is an attractive young black girl with big dreams about life. She aims at living a life full of explorations, freedom and happiness. However, her dreams are almost shattered when Nanny, her grandmother, forces her to marry Logan, a rich middle-aged man.

Nanny’s action is propelled by her desire to guarantee a good life and a high social status for her granddaughter. However, Janie treasures love above material things and she leaves Logan for Jody, an ambitious young man. Two decades into their marriage, Joddy dies, freeing Janie from his dictatorship. Janie finally finds Tea Cake, marries him and moves to another town. However, through a strange turn of events, Janie is obliged to kill Tea Cake for her own safety. She returns to her previous home where she faces mockery from her neighbors.

Several scenes in the movie portray Janie’s resolution to make a spiritual journey towards love and self-awareness. The flirting moments between Janie and Jody is an example of such a scene. Having been fed up with staying in a loveless marriage with Logan, Janie decides to take a spiritual journey that enables her to discover the true meaning and feeling of love. The encounter with Jody marks the beginning of this journey. Furthermore, the scene where Janie makes the final decision to leave Logan marks the beginning of her journey to find love. Another scene of a spiritual journey to love is the sweet conversation that Janie has with Tea Cake during their dates. The atmosphere created by Tea Cake’s jokes and charms portrays a relationship based on true love. Janie finds Tea Cake to be imaginative and creative which suits her description of an ideal man. The mutual attraction felt by the two creates a scene that depicts real love. The scene where Janie publicly shames Jody by remarking about his ugly nature and his impotence is the beginning of Janie’s journey to self-awareness. This comes after Janie decides that she is no longer in a position to put up with Jody’s domineering and suppressive character traits.

Janie’s appreciation of her independence is depicted when she refuses to be bound to Logan for the rest of her life because of material things. Since she was never independent at Logan’s house, Janie longed for a time when she will be able to do what she chooses to do. Her appreciation of independence makes her leave Logan for a man whom she hoped to enjoy freedom with. Secondly, Janie recognizes and appreciates the need for her self-independence when she decides to break loose from the restrictions and dictations stipulated by Jody. She acknowledges the fact that in order to be free, she has to stop giving Jody the opportunity to control her. Lastly, Janie gives an indication that she appreciates her self-independence when she turns down the marriage proposals from numerous suitors after Jody’s funeral. After being denied freedom by the two men consecutively, jeopardizing her new found freedom was the last thing on Janie’s mind. In fact, she only gives marriage a try after she is assured of happy times with Tea Cake.

Janie exhibits women agency throughout the story. The manner in which she reacts to different circumstances and makes decisions presents her as a typical woman. For instance, her refusal to accompany Jody to the farm is expected from a woman. Janie is therefore an epitome of any woman who refuses to let her course of action be influenced by men. Janie rashly gets attracted to Jody’s good looks and charm and makes a hasty decision to marry him. This rash decision costs her freedom for twenty years. It is also typical of a majority of women to make impetuous decisions when it comes to love and relationship matters. Janie also depicts the features of women agency when she gets fed up with the unexpected directions of her two marriages. Her decision to leave the marriages is final. Likewise, most women make such decisions when faced with similar circumstances. Janie’s decisions are therefore a representation of the general agency of women.

In conclusion, the story remains important to the traditions of black women by developing primary features of women agency. The story also gives an insight into how things were done in the first half of the twentieth century. Furthermore, the story emphasizes the strength that a woman can acquire through the process of self-awareness and appreciation of self-independence.

Works Cited

Jones, Sharon. Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc., 2009. Print.

Louis, Gates. Zora Neale Hurston: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993. Print.

This term paper on African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Term Paper sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, April 9). African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-studies-their-eyes-were-watching-god-by-hurston/

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, April 9). African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-studies-their-eyes-were-watching-god-by-hurston/

Work Cited

"African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston." IvyPanda, 9 Apr. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-studies-their-eyes-were-watching-god-by-hurston/.

1. IvyPanda. "African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston." April 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-studies-their-eyes-were-watching-god-by-hurston/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston." April 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-studies-their-eyes-were-watching-god-by-hurston/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. "African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston." April 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/african-american-studies-their-eyes-were-watching-god-by-hurston/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'African American Studies. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Hurston'. 9 April.

Powered by CiteTotal, easy essay citation maker
More related papers