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Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston?s unique novel of a girl evolving into a woman, is a story of finding one?s personal identity and the process in getting to that level. Achieving this difficult goal is accomplished only by those who overcome multifarious struggles and have the faith to believe that everything will prosper. Hurston?s example of such a person is the novel?s main character, Janie Crowford-Killicks-Starks-Woods. Relating to a close friend the story of her relationships and her search for self-realization, Janie unravels the story.

The novel obtains cultural spice from both the dialect and the time, being written largely in the southern black dialect of the early nineteen hundreds. Hurston?s ability to convey the colorful, dusty, laid-back life that her characters lead is well developed and quite impressive. Just as striking is her ability to describe simply but eloquently feelings, emotions, ideas, and religious inadequacies to an audience that may be culturally challenged or unaware. The author?s words are often accompanied with vivid mental pictures, making them seem like brush strokes of color on a black and white mechanically printed canvas.

Being raised in the setting in which her novel takes place, Hurston was quite experienced with the gender and race ?wars? that occurred during her lifetime and the lifetimes of her characters. The menacing problems Hurston knew are also parallel to those that Janie overcomes by ironically submitting to them. Janie is forced to suppress her words and her thoughts throughout most of her life, but she eventually becomes much stronger from bearing the load of them. At the ending of the story, Janie returns to her home village and to her friends, which serves as an ending to her tragically yet beautifully fulfilled search and preparation for death. Janie?s mission was over; she knew who she was, and she let it be known to everyone.

The theme of Janie?s inner strength is interwoven through every page, and it is finally recognized at the end when the moral is realized: beauty, strength, and speech can all be one unit and, when incited by the desire to express one?s self, can work together to shape who one will become. Their Eyes Were Watching God is not simply the soap-opera life of a young woman who was undervalued and oppressed, yet able to succeed through hard times. Masterfully done, it is a classic story of becoming free in love, unburdened in happiness, and strong in the self.

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