Their eyes were watching god

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. novel
    an extended fictional work in prose
    Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been one among many to ask: “How 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 ‘disappear’ from her readership for three full decades?”
  2. unambiguously
    in an unambiguous manner
    In Their Eyes, Hurston has not given us an unambiguously heroic female character.
  3. excoriate
    express strong disapproval of
    Writing for the leftist magazine New Masses, Wright excoriated Their Eyes as a novel that did for literature what the minstrel shows did for theater, that is, make white folks laugh.
  4. inscribe
    carve, cut, or etch into a material or surface
    The gravemarker now bears the words that Walker had inscribed there:





    Questions for Discussion

  5. wan
    deficient in color suggesting physical or emotional distress
    If she ain’t got manners enough to stop and let folks know how she been makin’ out, let her g’ wan!”

    “She ain’t even worth talkin’ after,” Lulu Moss drawled through her nose. “She sits high, but she looks low.
  6. fractious
    easily irritated or annoyed
    Five or six more men left the porch and surrounded the fractious beast, goosing him in the sides and making him show his temper.
  7. anthropologist
    a social scientist specializing in the study of humanity
    The author of numerous books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jonah’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.
  8. commiserate
    feel or express sympathy or compassion
    Joe challenged, hoping his ears had fooled him.

    “You heard her, you ain’t blind,” Walter taunted.

    “Ah ruther be shot with tacks than tuh hear dat ’bout mahself,” Lige Moss commiserated.
  9. galvanize
    stimulate (muscles) by administering a shock
    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.
  10. desecrate
    violate the sacred character of a place or language
    The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree, but Janie didn’t know how to tell Nanny that.
  11. ambivalence
    mixed feelings or emotions
    In 1989, I find myself asking new questions about Their Eyes—questions about Hurston’s ambivalence toward her female protagonist, about its uncritical depiction of violence toward women, about the ways in which Janie’s voice is dominated by men even in passages that are about her own inner growth.
  12. resilient
    recovering readily from adversity, depression, or the like
    At first it might seem contradictory that a work whose central character is the remarkably resolute and resilient Janie Crawford should start with a dictum about “the life of men.”
  13. ingratiate
    gain favor with somebody by deliberate efforts
    And Hurston’s own political statements, relating to racial issues or addressing national politics, did not ingratiate her with her black male contemporaries.
  14. wallow
    roll around
    He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store.
  15. jostle
    make one's way by pushing or shoving
    They jostled each other and pecked at heads in hungry irritation.
  16. substantiate
    establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts
    Does the novel substantiate Janie’s statement that “Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business”?

  17. pacify
    ease the anger, agitation, or strong emotion of
    And now you got tuh die tuh find out dat you got tuh pacify somebody besides yo’self if you wants any love and any sympathy in dis world.
  18. condone
    excuse, overlook, or make allowances for
    In the end, Janie receives from Tea Cake the equivalent of all three—wine, flowers, and blood—and she becomes like a treasured relative whose love affair we could never wholeheartedly condone, but the source of which we could certainly understand.
  19. omniscient
    infinitely wise
    Stepto found Janie curiously silent in this scene, with Hurston telling the story in omniscient third person so that we do not hear Janie speak—at least not in her own first-person voice.
  20. hyperbole
    extravagant exaggeration
    It was a contest in hyperbole and carried on for no other reason.
  21. inherently
    in an essential manner
    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.
  22. rile
    disturb, especially by minor irritations
    Dat useter rile Mayrella uh lot.
  23. spry
    moving quickly and lightly
    You ain’t none too spry dis mornin’.”

    “Oh, nothin’ much, Ah reckon.
  24. pugnacious
    ready and able to resort to force or violence
    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.
  25. dilate
    become wider
    Pheoby dilated all over with eagerness, “Tea Cake gone?”

    “Yeah, Pheoby, Tea Cake is gone.
  26. disengage
    release from something that holds fast or entangles
    Free, single, disengaged.”

    “I god, Ah ain’t nowhere near old enough to have no grown daughter.
  27. dwindle
    become smaller or lose substance
    Nanny sent Janie along with a stern mien, but she dwindled all the rest of the day as she worked.
  28. stereotype
    a conventional or formulaic conception or image
    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.
  29. temerity
    fearless daring
    The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe’s positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him.
  30. sodden
    wet through and through; thoroughly wet
    She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.
  31. vernacular
    the everyday speech of the people
    How important is Hurston’s use of vernacular dialect to our understanding of Janie and the other characters and their way of life?
  32. exuberance
    joyful enthusiasm
    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 women—most of whom were much older than we were when they first read her—and still had the exuberance of a recent discovery, much as in the early days o...
  33. pantheon
    a temple to all the gods of antiquity
    The fact remains that every one of Hurston’s books went quickly out of print; and it was only through the determined efforts, in the 1970s, of Alice Walker, Robert Hemenway (Hurston’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.
  34. evoke
    call forth, as an emotion, feeling, or response
    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 grandmother’s restricted vision of a black woman’s life and realize her own self-conceived liberation.
  35. broach
    bring up a topic for discussion
    There’s some women dat jus’ ain’t for you tuh broach.
  36. autonomy
    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 Cake’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.
  37. conjure
    summon into action or bring into existence
    How does Janie counter them with her conjuring?

  38. symmetry
    balance among the parts of something
    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 Janie’s story and passed it on from one to another; and certainly, as the novel represents a woman redefining and revising a male-dominated ...
  39. incredulous
    not disposed or willing to believe; unbelieving
    They tried hard to hold it in, but enough incredulous laughter burst out of their eyes and leaked from the corners of their mouths to inform anyone of their thoughts.
  40. prodigal
    recklessly wasteful
    So in spite of the judgmental voices that greet her upon her return, in spite of the “mass cruelty” 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 “member” of her own remembering.
  41. tangible
    perceptible by the senses especially the sense of touch
    He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible.
  42. languid
    lacking spirit or liveliness
    Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.
  43. proffer
    present for acceptance or rejection
    Mrs. Tony leaped away from the proffered cut of meat as if it were a rattlesnake.

    “Ah wouldn’t tetch it!
  44. prostrate
    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.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.