Sunday, February 22, 2009


Zora Neale Hurston's background has a heavy influence on many parts of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black town in the United States. It's probably just a coincidence that Janie spends the majority of the novel in Eatonville. OK, I'm kidding. Obviously, Hurston's baclground affects the setting. Hurston lived in a white-dominated world , but one that was full of hope for blacks. Eatonville is the manifestation of this: In the real world and in the novel, blacks gained new freedom and prosperity in the new the new town.

Hurston must have faced many challenges on her way to becoming a successful author. She was the only black student at Howard University. Obviously, she did not become successful by luck. It took hard work and determination. This fighting spirit is present in the characters of the novel. Joe works extremely hard to prove to himself that black people can succeed and be powerful citizens. He does it for the wrong reasons and goes about it in the wrong ways, but the spirit is undeniably there. Janie does not give up on her dream, either. She resists her two husbands' attempts to destroy her dream of love and equality.

Hurston was fiercely protective of black culure; we can see this from her collections of African American Folklore and her political attitudes. She wanted to do justice to the struggle of all black Americans, and she did so in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston wrote a novel where racism and white dominance is always a subtle but strong force. By doing so, she payed homage to her struggle and the struggle of those in a similar situation.

Being a woman was also an important influence on Hurston's novel. Hurston no doubt experienced sexism during her life. Her story of a woman being oppressed but in the end becoming empowered and fulfilling her dreams pays tribute to that side of her life, as well.

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick question: did Howard used to be a white school or something? Because I'm pretty sure right now it's considered a black university... jw. But I like your portrayal of race within the novel in this post. You don't describe it as a major aspect of the plot, but rather a "subtle but strong force." I like this because I don't think that a good story about black town in this time period would be all about feeling bad for the black people in it.