an extended fictional work in prose
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€
in an unambiguous manner
In Their Eyes, Hurston has not given us an
unambiguously heroic female character.
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.
carve, cut, or etch into a material or surface
The gravemarker now bears the words that Walker had
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
GENIUS OF THE SOUTH
NOVELIST FOLKLORIST ANTHROPOLOGIST
Questions for Discussion
deficient in color suggesting physical or emotional distress
If she ainâ€™t got manners enough to stop and let folks know how she been makinâ€™ out, let her gâ€™
â€œShe ainâ€™t even worth talkinâ€™ after,â€ Lulu Moss drawled through her nose. â€œShe sits high, but she looks low.
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.
a social scientist specializing in the study of humanity
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.
to feel or express sympathy or compassion
Joe challenged, hoping his ears had fooled him.
â€œYou heard her, you ainâ€™t blind,â€ Walter taunted.
â€œAh ruther be shot with tacks than tuh hear dat â€™bout mahself,â€ Lige Moss
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.
violate the sacred character of a place or language
The vision of Logan Killicks was
desecrating the pear tree, but Janie didnâ€™t know how to tell Nanny that.
mixed feelings or emotions
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.
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 â€œthe life of men.â€
gain favor with somebody by deliberate efforts
And Hurstonâ€™s own political statements, relating to racial issues or addressing national politics, did not
ingratiate her with her black male contemporaries.
He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively
wallowing in it as she went about things in the store.
make one's way by pushing or shoving
jostled each other and pecked at heads in hungry irritation.
establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts
Does the novel
substantiate Janieâ€™s statement that â€œSometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside businessâ€?
ease the anger, agitation, or strong emotion of
And now you got tuh die tuh find out dat you got tuh
pacify somebody besides yoâ€™self if you wants any love and any sympathy in dis world.
excuse, overlook, or make allowances for
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.
Stepto found Janie curiously silent in this scene, with Hurston telling the story in
omniscient third person so that we do not hear Janie speakâ€”at least not in her own first-person voice.
It was a contest in
hyperbole and carried on for no other reason.
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.
disturb, especially by minor irritations
rile Mayrella uh lot.
moving quickly and lightly
You ainâ€™t none too
spry dis morninâ€™.â€
â€œOh, nothinâ€™ much, Ah reckon.
tough and callous by virtue of experience
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.
dilated all over with eagerness, â€œTea Cake gone?â€
â€œYeah, Pheoby, Tea Cake is gone.
release from something that holds fast or entangles
â€œI god, Ah ainâ€™t nowhere near old enough to have no grown daughter.
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.
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.
The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joeâ€™s positions and possessions, but none had the
temerity to challenge him.
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.
the everyday speech of the people
How important is Hurstonâ€™s use of
vernacular dialect to our understanding of Janie and the other characters and their way of life?
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...
a temple to all the gods of antiquity
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.
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 grandmotherâ€™s restricted vision of a black womanâ€™s life and realize her own self-conceived liberation.
bring up a topic for discussion
Thereâ€™s some women dat jusâ€™ ainâ€™t for you tuh
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.
summon into action or bring into existence
How does Janie counter them with her
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 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 ...
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.
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.
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
lacking spirit or liveliness
Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and
present for acceptance or rejection
Mrs. Tony leaped away from the
proffered cut of meat as if it were a rattlesnake.
â€œAh wouldnâ€™t tetch it!
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.