Free Essays - Doing the Right Thing in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Doing the Right Thing in Their Eyes Were Watching God

When faced with urgent moral conflicts such as during the hurricane in Zora Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, men generally have two choices: help others or help themselves. Hurston's characters choose to they help others before attending to their own needs for survival.

The characters' actions are typical of Immanuel Kant's philosophy of the categorical imperative: actions are intrinsically good and do not find justification in their effects, nor does one expect compensation for his actions. In short, one could say that the very lack of thought on the part of Hurston's characters indicates the characters unyielding confidence in their beliefs and the basic moral goodness they possess.

The first event in Hurston's story is the evacuation of the muck as Lake Okechobee overtakes the characters' village. Hurston's characters could run away as fast as their legs can carry them, but they instead notify neighbors without delay. As Hurston describes it, "They cried out as best they could, `De lake is comin'!' and barred doors flew open and others joined them in flight..." (154). They expect nothing for their actions, but they inevitably save many families.

Moreover, although Motor Boat refuses to leave the high house, he still makes an offer to his friends which is as selfless as he can make it: "Mah mamma's house is yours" (155). Motor Boat acknowledges his friends' trouble, as well as his own, but he offers his mother's house as a lodging simply because it is the right thing to do.

Contrary to what might be contended, the white people on the Six Mile Bend bridge, however, are not necessarily demonstrating egoism. A finite area of bridge exists, and if white people were there first (156), then the white people can claim its use. On the other hand, they could be charitable by moving on after a rest and allowing the weary blacks to rest before continuing the journey to Palm Beach or high ground. Hurston could be again demonstrating her perceived differences between the races, but the degree of racism depends on readers' viewpoints.

Not too long afterwards, Tea Cake demonstrates benevolence as he notices a man trapped between an electrified tin roof and a rattlesnake. Tea Cake notices the man's predicament and stops to urge him to move to his left. Readers can presume the man was freed by taking Tea Cake's advice, but in the spirit of the categorical imperative, Tea Cake does not wait in expectation of laurels.

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