Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

“There’s two things everybody gotta find out for theyselves, they gotta find out about love, and they gotta find out about livin’.”

This book is about living: passion, learning, being true to yourself, community, love, friendship, and the absolute uncertainty of life. (The rest of this paragraph contains spoilers) It follows one young black woman through three marriages – one miserable, one restraining, and one absolutely happy and free. Janie grows from a woman who always listens to what she has to do and does it (though she still has independent thoughts), to someone who abandons the town she helped build because they scorn her happiness with a new man after the death of her oppressing husband.

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This book Surprised me. I absolutely loved it.

There are some books you can sort of ‘see’ the literary devices as you read without having to reread and analyze or have them pointed out to you. For me, Their Eyes Were Watching God was one if those books. I saw clearly the symbols and what they represented, the character traits and development, the ‘plot map’, and themes – all clearly as I read. To many of you that might sound like it is a boring, predictable book, but it wasn’t! Because the book begins at the end, you can see clearly what you’re meant to pay attention to – to grow up and learn with Janie as her story progresses. I highly recommend it!

So far, this is the only book I feel like I ‘cheated’ on. I listen to a lot of books on audio while I work, as I did with this one. It was a joy listening to Ruby Dee narrate through the extensive dialogue in this novel – which is exactly why I feel somewhat guilty. The dialogue in this book is written with a very heavy dialect, which I think would be very difficult to wade through on the written page. Reading this book was less of a chore and more like listening to a play for me, and I feel like others who read the book in written form have one up on me. More dedication, more literary ‘skill’, better and more healthy reading habits…I feel like a chump who took the easy way out (as I did much of my way through high school). Someday when I read this again (and I will read it again, it is a wonderful book), I will read the words as they were written in the page, and I think that will make me feel a whole lot better. Conversely, if you feel you just can’t deal with the way the dialogue is written, you might want to listen to it on audio first or along with the pages as you go – that way you can still enjoy the story and get to know the characters. Also, if you go this route, ignore everything I just wrote about being a literary classic failure, haha. At least we’re trying it right?? :-)

I’m glad I joined in spontaneously to this Classics Club Sync Read, and I hope to participate in more throughout the year. Officially, this book wasn’t on my Classics Club Challenge list, but it kind of makes me want to revise it, adding more African-American lit titles…time will tell!

Until next time,
•Emma

P.S.-That quote is the first line in the movie – I can’t remember if its in the book or not, and if it is – then it’s probably not spelled the same!! Apologies!!

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