Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston
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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is the story of Janie, who flees from her husband to marry Jody, a businessman who does no better for Janie than her first husband but does leave her a wealthy widow at age forty. Not until she meets Tea Cake does she fall in love. That relationship ends badly when she must shoot him when he attacks her in a rabies- induced rage. Richard Wright calls this “folklore at its best,” showing off Hurston’s “gift for poetic phrase, for rare dialect, and folk humor”. Yet Wright criticizes Hurston for catering to the white audience who can find humor in the dialogue and not need to consider a more serious message. Simmons, however, sees Janie as the result of the male domination that is part of both the black and the white worlds that allows for no direct discourse.
Hurston has not been readily available to readers, having fallen into obscurity for two main reasons, first, her refusal to be a part of the civil rights elite who dictated that black writing was to be a rebellion against the white authority and, second, an “apathy and insensitivity of white critics toward African American fiction for much of this century.
The work is based on how women and men relate to one another, and the realization that most of the time a woman’s life and how it is lived is based on the man to whom she attaches herself. That the men of the civil rights movement chose to interpret it in another way gives credence to that realization.