Zora Neale Hurston is known as an African American who was born in 1891, in Eatonville, Florida. Zora Neale Hurston marked her name not only in literature, but also anthropology and folklore. Her native place Eatonville is regarded as the first incorporated all-black community in America. Death of her mother forced Hurston to leave her native place Eatonville when she was 13 and she moved to Jacksonville. She would have completed her graduation in the 1925, however, Hurston moved to New York without completing her graduation because of her severe illness and financial problems. She started her literary career in writing short stories and later she concentrated on novels and other form of writings. She died on January 28, 1960 because of severe poverty and obscurity.
Zora Neale Hurston published her first novel Jonahs Gourd Vine in 1934, which gathered popularity as well critical acclaim. Hurston’s masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God and the subsequent year she published Tell My Horse, a travelogue which described the study of Caribbean voodoo. Another significant event in her literary career was the publication of her autobiography entitled Dust Tracks on a Road in 1942. Hurston spent the final phase her of career as a supporter of civil rights movements and ultraconservative politicians. Researchers have identified Zora Neale Hurston as a prototypical authority on black culture from the Harlem Renaissance. As a prominent African American writer, Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God acquired both attention and controversy at the time of its publication. Critics often regarded this novel as a seminal work in the history of African American literature as well as women literature in 20th century.
Protagonist: The author portrayed Janie Crawford, a forty-year-old African American woman as the protagonist in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The writer presents her as light-skinned, soft-natured, long – haired and dreamy as a child, Janie lives expecting better experience in her life than she obtains until she come across Tea Cake, a younger man who caught Janie’s heart.
Antagonist: The story is developed through the life of Janie Crawford and the reader often failed to find the presence of an antagonist. However, the reader can consider the character of Tea Cake, a drifter and gambler, hence, acting the role of an antagonist. His original name was Vergible Woods.
Theme: Zora Neale Hurston depicts various themes in her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God like power and conquest in spiritual fulfillment, love and relationships, language as a powerful weapon for self control, materialism and spirituality. Janie’s life explores the conflict between love and relationships and independence.
Conflict: The entire story is developed through the spiritual journey of the protagonist Janie Crawford. For the duration of her journey, Janie faces clashes related with the values, manners and racial considerations that the society imposes upon her.
Type of Literature: Hurston’s novel describes the conflicts between love and relationship and independence among the black people. Therefore, the novel is aimed towards mature readers and its theme, characterization, backgrounds explores the elements of autobiography of the writer herself. Through the life of the protagonist Janie, the novelist demonstrates black survival.
Other elements: The novel was written in 1937 and the story is narrated through the voice a third person who reveals the thoughts and emotions of the protagonist Janie Crawford. Most of the events in the novel were presented while Janie was telling her story to Pheoby. Along with the first person narration, the reader can see an external narrator in this novel. Christina Gieseler comments “As an authorial narrator who describes and comments the action taking place in the frame also Janie’s story in Standard English” (Gieseler 14).This new way of narration achieved great attention and reader’s approval.
Rating: As an interesting piece of literature, Hurston’s novel puts forward some relevant thoughts about black existence in the United States. The novel gives a detailed description about the endurance of black women among the prejudiced customs of the society. It is a wonderful novel that provides the relevance of language and relations in social life. Therefore, the novel deserves a rating of 8 out of 10.
Gieseler, Christina. Zora Neale Hurston and “Their Eyes Were Watching God”: The Novel’s Outer Contexts and an Analysis of the Concept of Otherness. GRIN Verlag, 2010. Print.