"Their Eyes Were Watching God," Vocabulary from the Afterword

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is notable for its strong African American female protagonists who pursue love and respect. This novel is now considered a seminal work and is Zora Neale Hurston's best known novel.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Foreword, Chapters 1-5, Chapters 6-10, Chapters 11-15, Chapters 16-20, Afterword
definitions & notes only words
  1. eccentric
    conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
    The Reverend Harry Middleton Hyatt, an Episcopal priest whose five-volume classic collection, Hoodoo, Conjuration, Witchcraft, and RooPivork, more than amply returned an investment of forty years’ research, once asked me during an interview in 1977 what had become of another eccentric collector whom he admired.
  2. folklore
    the unwritten stories and proverbs and songs of a culture
    Zora Neale Hurston published seven books—four novels, two books of folklore, and an autobiography—and more than fifty shorter works between the middle of the Harlem Renaissance.
  3. dominant
    exercising influence or control
    She was the dominant black woman writer in the United States.
  4. obscurity
    an unimportant and not well known standing
    The dark obscurity into which her career then lapsed reflects her staunchly independent political stances rather than any deficiency of craft or vision.
  5. oblivion
    the state of being disregarded or forgotten
    So many black writers from oblivion.
  6. harmonious
    existing together in agreement
    Hurston embodied a more or less harmonious but nevertheless problematic unity of opposites.
  7. glib
    marked by lack of intellectual depth
    It is this complexity that refuses to lend itself to the glib categories of “radical” or “conservative,” “black” or “Negro,” “revolutionary” or “Uncle Tom”—categories of little use in literary criticism.
  8. radical
    far beyond the norm
    It is this complexity that refuses to lend itself to the glib categories of “ radical” or “conservative,” “black” or “Negro,” “revolutionary” or “Uncle Tom”—categories of little use in literary criticism.
  9. affinity
    a close connection marked by community of interests
    The craft of Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Gloria Naylor, and Toni Cade Bambara bears, in markedly different ways, strong affinities with Hurston’s.
  10. gaudy
    tastelessly showy
    Their Eyes is a lyrical novel that correlates the need of her first two husbands for ownership of progressively larger physical space (and the gaudy accoutrements of upward mobility) with the suppression of self-awareness in their wife.
  11. accoutrement
    clothing that is not part of one's main clothing
    Their Eyes is a lyrical novel that correlates the need of her first two husbands for ownership of progressively larger physical space (and the gaudy accoutrements of upward mobility) with the suppression of self-awareness in their wife.
  12. frolic
    light-hearted recreational activity for amusement
    Only with her third and last lover, a roustabout called Tea Cake whose unstructured frolics center around and about the Florida swamps, does Janie at last bloom.
  13. ideology
    an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group
    The reasons for this are complex and stem largely from what we might think of as their “racial ideologies.”
  14. cipher
    a quantity of no importance
    The cultural nationalism of the Black Arts movement—was the idea that racism had reduced black people to mere ciphers.
  15. omnipresent
    existing everywhere at once
    To beings who only react to an omnipresent racial oppression.
  16. pathological
    caused by or evidencing a mentally disturbed condition
    To beings who only react to an omnipresent racial oppression, whose culture is “deprived” where different, and whose psyches are in the main “ pathological.”
  17. propagation
    the spreading of something into new regions
    Hurston thought this idea degrading, its propagation a trap, and railed against it.
  18. meticulous
    marked by extreme care in treatment of details
    For the folklore Hurston collected so meticulously as Franz Boas’s student at Barnard became metaphors, allegories, and performances in her novels, the traditional recurring canonical metaphors of black culture.
  19. quaint
    strange in an interesting or pleasing way
    The myths she describes so accurately are in fact “alternative modes for perceiving reality,” and never just condescending depictions of the quaint.
  20. ingenious
    showing inventiveness and skill
    Hurston sees “the Dozens,” for example, that age-old black ritual of graceful insult, as, among other things, a verbal defense of the sanctity of the family, conjured through ingenious plays on words.
  21. idiomatic
    of or relating to or conforming to an expression
    The representation of her sources of language seems to be her principal concern, as she constantly shifts back and forth between her “literate” narrator’s voice and a highly idiomatic black voice found in wonderful passages of free indirect discourse.