Their Eyes Were Watching God pdf, Summary, Themes, Sparknotes, Characters

Their Eyes Were Watching God pdf by Zora Neale Hurston is a 1937 novel by American writer Zora Neale Hurston. It is considered a classic of the Harlem Renaissance, and Hurston’s best known work. The novel explores main character Janie Crawford’s “ripening from a vibrant, but voiceless, teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny”. Set in central and southern Florida in the early 20th century, the novel was initially poorly received. Since the late 20th century, it has been regarded as influential to both African-American literature and women’s literature. TIME included the novel in its 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. In this article, you will be able to download the pdf version of Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston as well as do the following:

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Their eyes were watching God Summary

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

Their eyes were watching God author –  Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was born on Jan. 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama. Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, Florida, when she was still a toddler. Her writings reveal no recollection of her Alabama beginnings. For Hurston, Eatonville was always home. Growing up in Eatonville, in an eight-room house on five acres of land, Zora had a relatively happy childhood, despite frequent clashes with her preacher-father. Her mother, on the other hand, urged young Zora and her seven siblings to “jump at de sun.” Hurston’s idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end, though, when her mother died in 1904. Zora was only 13 years old. After Lucy Hurston’s death, Zora’s father remarried quickly and seemed to have little time or money for his children. Zora worked a series of menial jobs over the ensuing years, struggled to finish her schooling, and eventually joined a Gilbert & Sullivan traveling troupe as a maid to the lead singer. In 1917, she turned up in Baltimore; by then, she was 26 years old and still hadn’t finished high school. Needing to present herself as a teenager to qualify for free public schooling, she lopped 10 years off her life–giving her age as 16 and the year of her birth as 1901. Once gone, those years were never restored: From that moment forward, Hurston would always present herself as at least 10 years younger than she actually was. Zora also had a fiery intellect, and an infectious sense of humor. Zora used these talents–and dozens more–to elbow her way into the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, befriending such luminaries as poet Langston Hughes and popular singer/actress Ethel Waters.

By 1935, Hurston–who’d graduated from Barnard College in 1928–had published several short stories and articles, as well as a novel (Jonah’s Gourd Vine) and a well-received collection of black Southern folklore (Mules and Men). But the late 1930s and early ’40s marked the real zenith of her career. She published her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in 1937; Tell My Horse, her study of Caribbean Voodoo practices, in 1938; and another masterful novel, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in 1939. When her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, was published in 1942, Hurston finally received the well-earned acclaim that had long eluded her. That year, she was profiled in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography and Twentieth Century Authors. She went on to publish another novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, in 1948. Still, Hurston never received the financial rewards she deserved. So when she died on Jan. 28, 1960–at age 69, after suffering a stroke–her neighbors in Fort Pierce, Florida, had to take up a collection for her funeral. The collection didn’t yield enough to pay for a headstone, however, so Hurston was buried in a grave that remained unmarked until 1973. That summer, a young writer named Alice Walker traveled to Fort Pierce to place a marker on the grave of the author who had so inspired her own work.Walker entered the snake-infested cemetery where Hurston’s remains had been laid to rest. Wading through waist-high weeds, she soon stumbled upon a sunken rectangular patch of ground that she determined to be Hurston’s grave. Walker chose a plain gray headstone. Borrowing from a Jean Toomer poem, she dressed the marker up with a fitting epitaph: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”

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Their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, nev-er out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.

The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sit-ting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment. Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song.

“What she doin’ coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on?—Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?—Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her?—What dat ole forty year ole ’oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?—Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid?—Thought she was going to marry?—Where he left her?—What he done wid all her money?—Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs—why she don’t stay in her class?—” When she got to where they were she turned her face on the bander log and spoke. They scrambled a noisy “good evenin’ ” and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope. Her speech was pleasant enough, but she kept walking straight on to her gate. The porch couldn’t talk for looking. 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 un-raveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.

Their eyes were watching God Themes

Voice, Language and Storytelling

Janie is both the protagonist and narrator of her story, recounting her life experiences to her friend Pheoby after arriving back to Eatonville at the end point of her journey. Janie’s experiences within her marriages, a central subject of her story, are what drive her to recognize that what she most actively seeks is a voice for herself—to be someone who can speak and be listened to. The distinctive personalities of Jody and Tea Cake in particular bring to light Janie’s progress toward finding a voice. While Jody stifles Janie and does not allow her to express herself, Tea Cake earns Janie’s attraction precisely by acting as her equal, by being someone who listens.

Janie’s full discovery of her own voice emerges in Chapter 19, the climactic trial scene immediately following Tea Cake’s death. In this scene, Janie-the-narrator noticeably decreases her interruptions of the narrative itself, instead allowing herself as a character to provide continuous testimony. This shift marks her recognition of herself as an individual with a unique voice, one that she owns and can control without supervision from a man. Janie’s story can be read not only as recounting her experiences to a friend, but also as a triumph in and of itself. That is, her goal and desire throughout the novel is to find a voice that is her own and to use that voice to express herself as a person. So being able to tell her own story, to be both the narrator and protagonist, marks the achievement of that ambition.

Their Eyes Were Watching God not only explores the theme of language and storytelling at the level of narrative content, but also through its form. There is a clear split between the narrator’s literary style and the dialect of the black American South used by Janie and the characters in her community. This split is deliberately challenging to read, indicating Hurston’s attempt as the author to equalize these different forms of communication. By writing the novel in this way, Hurston endows the black community she seeks to portray in the novel with a literary “voice” that was previously unrecognized or seen as un-literary and not worth listening to.

Power, Judgment, and Jealousy

Different characters in the novel struggle to find a way to cope and thrive as individuals within communities and within the natural world. Janie searches for individual fulfillment by attempting to find her own voice and independence; Jody seeks total control (through acting as Eatonville’s mayor or by forcing Janie to wear her hair in a headscarf out of irrational jealousy); Tea Cake desires a fun-loving approach to life, bordering on the pathological (stealing Janie’s money without thinking anything of it, for example, or facing down the hurricane, ultimately paving the way toward his death).

Of course, the novel most extensively explores Janie and her life-long attempt to tune out judgment from the world around her and find power in her own voice. Janie’s search for independence reveals her desire to detach from the pressures of judgment and jealousy from her husbands and townspeople and to think for herself. The lessened pressure of a power struggle having to do with judgment and jealousy in Janie’s marriage with Tea Cake is what ultimately permits Janie to find fulfillment at the end of the novel. In this way, the end of the novel tells us that Janie’s search for independence emerged, at least in part, of her ability to tune out the evils of judgment and jealousy that ultimately arose in response to her drive for freedom.

Race and Racism

Despite its references to race, racism is not the central theme of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Instead, Hurston weaves race and racism into the society and culture in which Janie lives, but chooses to focus more on Janie‘s life experiences as a human being than as a black woman. In some ways, by not exclusively or predominantly focusing on race, the novel can portray race and racism in the American South in the early 20th century with great complexity.

Janie’s unusual and beautiful appearance as a fair-skinned (¼ white) black woman living in the black American South sparks attention from the various communities she encounters throughout the novel, some of which are marked by racist attitudes. For instance, the character of Mrs. Turner presents a highly complicated instance of racism, as Mrs. Turner is a black woman who is nonetheless extremely racist against blacks, particularly darker-skinned blacks.

Mrs. Turner scorns Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake and repeatedly begs Janie to date her light-skinned brother. Given her identity as a black woman, Mrs. Turner’s racism against blacks indicates that race is not a marker of real difference. Those who espouse superiority of one kind over another can find any pretext, any trait, to base those assertions on. Racism in the novel can be understood, then, as a set of rather ridiculous prejudices that exist in society, not a universal or stable system based on truth, which in turn makes its brutal effects (such as slavery in general and the rape of Nanny and its aftermath), particularly devastating.

Gender Roles and Relations

Their Eyes Were Watching God explores traditional gender roles as one of its main themes – specifically the way that stereotypical ideas about relationships between men and women empower men and disempower women. The novel’s plot is driven by Janie‘s series of relationships with different men: a kiss with Johnny Taylor, followed by marriages with Logan KillicksJody Starks and finally, Tea Cake. Logan Killicks and Jody Starks see Janie as defined by her relationship with them, and expect her to be obedient, silent and proper. Jody sees her as a kind of ornament that bolsters his social standing and that helps to justify his efforts to assert control over everyone, men and women alike. Tea Cake, in contrast, defines himself not by political power but rather by his physical strength and ability to have fun. Even while Tea Cake treats Janie as an equal, there still exists a certain power struggle in Janie’s relationship with him, as her increasing ability to recognize her needs as an individual throughout the novel emerges in response to Tea Cake’s treatment of her. Thus it is still possible to see Tea Cake as having a degree of control over Janie until the moment of his death. In each of her relationships, we watch Janie lose parts of herself under the forces of male domination.

The men are not the only characters who see the traditional take on gender relations (strong men, obedient women) as necessary and worthwhile. Nanny, as a former slave who endured brutal conditions in her life, is understandably more concerned with material well-being than self-expression. She therefore sees marriage as a means to gain status and financial security for her granddaughter, and does not believe that a black women can gain independence without a man. But Janie has different concerns, separating her from Nanny and other women who accept the traditional gender roles on display in the novel. Janie seeks self-expression, and authentic love based on mutual respect—a goal she ultimately achieves in her relationship with Tea Cake and, even more so, after his death, when she has fully come to know herself and can speak her mind and tell her own story.

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Their eyes were watching God reviews

Customer reviews barnesandnoble for Their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


B&N New Hope Commons
4 out of 5 stars.
a year ago  
A Classic From The Harlem Renaissance!

With lyrical prose, Zora Neale Hurston explores womanhood, independence, love, friendship and partnership. This is a compelling read and a beautiful love story, but, be warned (no spoilers!): this is also a tragedy. This story will haunt me for years to come, but the beautiful telling will also remain as a certain spark in my memory. I know from years of bookselling that this is often a school assignment; while it pleases me that this book has such wide readership, I feel this book should not be forgotten by those who are long out of school and away from required reading. If you read it in school, I would encourage you to revisit it in your middle years as well!

5 out of 5 stars
2 years ago  

This is such a powerful book that needs to be read. It’s one that will stay with you long after you read it. I loved Janie, she was such a strong Black woman who no matter how many people wanted her to change, she stayed true to herself. I absolutely loved Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake, and how Janie seemed to really find love after two not so great marriages. Not only did Janie find love, but Janie found herself. This book also discusses racial inequality and the treatment of Black people. For some, the dialect may be difficult to read.

5 out of 5 stars.
2 years ago  

Very deep story of young woman who lived through great happiness and sorrow both. Life was so difficult for so many in that era that it is hard to wrap my brain around it at times but I am glad I read it and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a book that makes you think even after you finish reading it.

4 out of 5 stars.

4 years ago  
Their Eyes Were Watching God

This is a novel about the evolution of Janie Crawford. The story is full of emotion as Janie learns about life as a black woman in the South. She never gives up although each of her 3 husbands brings difficulties to her life. This story is also about community and the importance it plays in your life. It wasn’t a story I thought I’d like, but it has a powerful ending! Zora Neale Hurston wrote this novel in 1937. It’s now an American Classic.

3 out of 5 stars
4 years ago  
To Start With, The Dialect In This Book Was Quiet Difficult To Get …

To start with, the dialect in this book was quiet difficult to get used to. I am a really quick reader but the conversational text forced me slow way down in order to completely understand what was being said. Once I got used to that I found this to be an eye opening tale. Set in the south in 1930s, Janie Crawford, a strong minded young woman, who takes hold of her life as you follow her beginning as a young girl being raised by her grandmother. Janie’s story touches your heart as she endures many traumas along the way to discover her purpose. I only just learned that this was made into a movie which I can’t wait to watch.

Sherry’s Books
Lincoln, NE5 out of 5 stars
3 months ago  
Beautiful Prose With An Ageless Story

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in w/ the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” p. 1
When a novel starts off w/ imagery like this, I know I will be in for a really enjoyable read. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a classic for a reason, and it’s not just the startlingly current, feminist voice of a protagonist written ‘way back in 1937. Zora Neale Hurston has an absolutely lyrical way w/ words and if you read it for no other reason, read it for the beautiful use of English found on nearly every page. THEN, read it as the story of a woman finding her own voice, staying true to her own self, even when her constraining society wants her to act differently. I don’t always approve of Janie’s choices, but I really LOVED reading her story.
I’d just really like share more lines: “Every morning the world flung itself over and exposed the town to the sun.” p. 51
“The salt pork box was in the back of the store and during the walk Mrs. Tony was so eager she sometimes stepped on Joe’s heels, sometimes she was a little before him. Something like a hungry cat when somebody approaches her pan w/ meat. Running a little, caressing a little and all the time making little urging-on cries.” p. 73
“The wind came back w/ triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company w/ the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” p. 160.
Ahhhhhhh….. 5 well-earned stars. I wish I had read it years ago.

Customer reviews on Amazon of Their eyes were watching God

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2017
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My daughter read this for her AP English class and I thought I should read this classic piece of literature as I had never had the opportunity. So I bought it and could not put it down. Months later, I am still thinking about this book, envisioning the cast of characters and events in the novel. Zora Neale Hurston was such a beautiful storyteller. I can see why this book is a classic piece of literature and in my mind, it stand heads above many of the other pieces of literature of have read from this period. I cannot recommend it enough to people. Hurston opens up a space for us to envision life shortly after Emancipation – where African Americans were freed but not free. She illuminates an early Black community (true) and one of the strong women (fictional) in that community. The trials and tribulations of the many characters and the barriers they encountered – the moments of joy, happiness, and pain all grip the reader and help the reader to not only imagine but to feel what it might have felt like to live during this time in the community with the people. A masterful work.

Ella Mc
5.0 out of 5 stars There’s a reason this is on virtually every “classic” list you can find.
Reviewed in the United States on February 7, 2018
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I’ve set a goal to reread the classics I read when I was way too young to appreciate them. I first read THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD because my older friend, Becky, told me it was “great” when I was about ten. I remember thinking it was a nice story, and that’s about it. Coming back to forty years later, I can agree that it’s great, but there’s so much more here. The most special part of Zora Neale Hurston’s writing is that she takes subjects that society wants to segment into “good” or “bad” and makes them human — thereby making them complicated. Subjects like infidelity, domestic abuse, killing for self-protection, killing as an act of mercy, colorism, white savior complex, poverty, female pride, female submission, moral relativism… You name a tough topic, and Hurston handles it in this book with a deft touch rarely found in today’s world. NOW I understand why it’s a classic & don’t just have to take everyone else’s word for it. Definitely worth a read or ten.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Woman Ahead of Her Time
Reviewed in the United States on December 23, 2017
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Hurston gives a window view into a place that shows a growing or blossoming of a woman’s life. It journeys on a three-fold path from Janie’s life with her grandma through 3 marriages that unfold new discoveries of Janie as she awakens to the power of her ability to lead herself. Hurston was ahead of her time in the sense that she was already living as one who did not need to fight the battle but had arrived and ‘was.’

Tom Quinn
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect novel
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2018
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This must be very nearly a perfect novel, a short classic like Old Man and the Sea, Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, with its own unique style and identity…. The racy black vernacular drives the story along while the voice of the narrator achieves levels of poetic intensity approaching myth… I found it gripping almost to the point of unputdownable from the first sentence…

Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but you shouldn’t need me to tell you that
Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2017
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I don’t really have anything to say that should convince you behind the book’s reputation. It’s really really good. The narrative is cyclical, and I very much wanted to start reading it all over again the moment I finished.
It feels – to my eyes – like an attempt to just tell a beautiful story about a black woman’s life in America, unencumbered by the need to feature politics and promote the cause of liberation. A decision which, in its own right, feels truly radical for the time. When I got to the last chapter, I wept. What greater endorsement does any book need? Random practical note: the language used in the narration is truly beautiful, but the dialogue is vernacular and can be hard to read as a result. The first few chapters are told almost entirely in dialogue, but once you’ve made it past that point the ratio shifts significantly – so it may take some work to get that far, but it’s very much worth it.

Kate Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars ” But like all “great” books
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2016
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I can’t remember the last time I read a book that moved me as deeply as ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God.” But like all “great” books, it may not be for everyone. A Millennial reader, for example, might be inclined to lose patience with a woman who spends 20 years of her life with a couple loser husbands before meeting her one true love. Even though there is no story without that context. It’s also possible that an older generation of women readers, Baby Boomers, for example, may be more inclined to sit quietly and say nothing, while nodding and smiling gently in response to a Millennial reader’s impatience. The man who finally enters Janie’s life and steals her heart is not without flaws. But. He knows how to love her. Deeply, unconditionally, joyfully. There is no “happily ever after” for Tea Cake and Janie, but what he gives her in the brief time they are together is life: fully realized, fully lived. A remarkable work of literary fiction by a skilled and soulful writer who knew stuff.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic to discuss forever!! Book clubs & Writing Classes
Reviewed in the United States on May 28, 201
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This is truly a classic and teachable from so many direction you will not be able to stand it. You can run a class for nearly a month discussing the levels, layers, textures, and nuances to the characters and their intentions. There are modes of language, characterization, dialect, motivation, conflict, and desire that can go on forever in a classroom or book club discussion. I fell in love with the woman with so much pain from men, but always willing to feel love. You will be entangled in the world of these people so quickly you will not believe it. I suggest you download the audible version so you can take in the dynamics of Ruby Dee reading Hurston’s beautiful language.

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