an extended fictional work in prose; usually in the form of a story
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been one among many to ask: â€œHow could the recipient of two Guggenheims and the author of four
novels, a dozen short stories, two musicals, two books on black mythology, dozens of essays, and a prizewinning autobiography virtually â€˜disappearâ€™ from her readership for three full decades?â€
a social scientist who specializes in anthropology
The author of numerous books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jonahâ€™s Gourd Vine, Mules and Men, and Moses, Man of the Mountain, Hurston had achieved fame and sparked controversy as a novelist,
anthropologist, outspoken essayist, lecturer, and theatrical producer during her sixty-nine years.
But I want to remember the history that nurtured this text into rebirth, especially the collective spirit of the sixties and seventies that
galvanized us into political action to retrieve the lost works of black women writers.
In 1989, I find myself asking new questions about Their Eyesâ€”questions about Hurstonâ€™s
ambivalence toward her female protagonist, about its uncritical depiction of violence toward women, about the ways in which Janieâ€™s voice is dominated by men even in passages that are about her own inner growth.
excuse, overlook, or make allowances for; be lenient with
In the end, Janie receives from Tea Cake the equivalent of all threeâ€”wine, flowers, and bloodâ€”and she becomes like a treasured relative whose love affair we could never wholeheartedly
condone, but the source of which we could certainly understand.
When Hurston chose a female hero for the story she faced an interesting dilemma: the female presence was
inherently a critique of the male-dominated folk culture and therefore could not be its heroic representative.
The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grapefruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her
pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt.
Like all individual thinkers, Janie Crawford pays the price of exclusion for nonconformity, much like Hurston herself, who was accused of
stereotyping the people she loved when she perhaps simply listened to them much more closely than others, and sought to reclaim and reclassify their voices.
Many of us can remember vividly our first encounter with her work, particularly Their Eyes Were Watching God. Because of the efforts of Ms. Walker and others, who valiantly reclaimed Zora for themselves and for all of us, we read Zora either in high school or in college classes, where her work is enthusiastically taught by men and womenâ€”most of whom were much older than we were when they first read herâ€”and still had the
exuberance of a recent discovery, much as in the early days o...
The fact remains that every one of Hurstonâ€™s books went quickly out of print; and it was only through the determined efforts, in the 1970s, of Alice Walker, Robert Hemenway (Hurstonâ€™s biographer), Toni Cade Bambara, and other writers and scholars that all of her books are now back in print and that she has taken her rightful place in the
pantheon of American authors.
Perhaps because it was written in such a short and, reportedly, emotionally charged period, this is a novel with an overpowering sense of exigency and urgency in its layered plot, swift pace, intricate narration, and in the raw anguish
evoked by the conflicting paths laid out for Janie Crawford as she attempts to survive her grandmotherâ€™s restricted vision of a black womanâ€™s life and realize her own self-conceived liberation.
immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence
She puts Janie on the track of
autonomy, self-realization, and independence, but she also places Janie in the position of romantic heroine as the object of Tea Cakeâ€™s quest, at times so subordinate to the magnificent presence of Tea Cake that even her interior life reveals more about him than about her.
There is lovely
symmetry between text and context in the case of Their Eyes: as Their Eyes affirms and celebrates black culture it reflects that same affirmation of black culture that rekindled interest in the text; Janie telling her story to listening woman friend, Pheoby, suggests to me all those women readers who discovered their own tale in Janieâ€™s story and passed it on from one to another; and certainly, as the novel represents a woman redefining and revising a male-dominated ...
So in spite of the judgmental voices that greet her upon her return, in spite of the â€œmass crueltyâ€ invoked by her
prodigal status, Janie has earned the right to be the griot of her own tale, the heroine of her own quest, the â€œmemberâ€ of her own remembering.
stretched out and lying at full length along the ground
Then one day she sat and watched the shadow of herself going about tending store and
prostrating itself before Jody, while all the time she herself sat under a shady tree with the wind blowing through her hair and her clothes.