Female Spirituality and Sexuality Explored Through Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Tell My Horse

Female Spirituality and Sexuality Explored Through Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Tell My Horse

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Zora Neale Hurston, while living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was researching voodoo on the most scholarly level. She was studying with Haiti’s most well known hougans and mambos, or priests and priestesses. At this time she was gathering knowledge about voodoo so she could write the text, Tell My Horse. Also, at this same time Hurston had finished writing, Their Eyes Were Watching God in only seven short weeks. A close reading of this novel provides the reader with a relationship between voodoo and the text. Hurston not only explores female spirituality and sexuality in, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but weaves the two together revealing that voodoo culture plays an important role within the novel especially in the comparisons between the voodoo goddess Erzulie and the texts main character Janie Crawford.
Hurston exploits the society in which Janie Crawford lives in. Hers is a society in which she is not allowed to live freely and express herself freely. She is suppressed in her society because she is a woman and because she is African-American. Hurston understands this oppression and she uncovers the truth on the status of black females at this time. There were no powerful roles available to them in their American culture or in their African-American culture. Women were looked down on and they were not seen as potentially strong spiritual and sexual
people. Hurston opens the door for her protagonist, Janie Crawford, to create a more substantial and empowering life for herself after the many hardships she faces. She leads her down a path to self-determination and this path is embodied by the spirituality of voodoo. “The old, old mysticism of the world in African terms...a religion of creation and life” (Tell My Horse 376).This i...

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...oodoo, which stands in the novel to tie in the value of self-discovery is integral to the story’s comparisons between Janie and Erzulie. Voodoo is believed to have played a shapely role in the Haitian revolution in which Haiti won its independence from France. The integration of voodoo imagery and symbolism throughout, Their Eyes Were Watching God, reflects Hurston’s belief that self-discovery for African-American women lies not in their male dominated society, but rather in their understanding of their own sexual and spiritual strength. Hurston achieves this idea greatly by linking the female goddess Erzulie with Janie Crawford.

Works Cited

Tell My Horse. 1938. rptd. in Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs and Other Writings. ed. Cheryl A Wall. New York: Library of America, 1995. 269-555.

Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

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