Literature is a reflection of the community from which it comes. Understanding the role of women in the African-American community starts by examining the roles of women in African-American literature. The portrayal of women in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) and James Baldwin's Go Tell it on the Mountain (1952) provides tremendous insight into the role of African-American women.
Their Eyes Were Watching God examines the relationship between Janie and her grandmother, who plays the role of mother in Janie's life. It also looks at the different relationships that Janie had with her three husbands. Janie's grandmother was one of the most important influences in her life, raising her since from an infant and passing on her dreams to Janie. Janie's mother ran away from home soon after Janie was born. With her father also gone, the task of raising Janie fell to her grandmother, Nanny. Nanny tells Janie "Fact uh de matter, Ah loves yuh a whole heap more'n Ah do yo' mama, de one Ah did birth" (Hurston 31). Nanny's dream is for Janie to attain a position of security in society, "high ground" as she puts it (32). As the person who raised her, Nanny feels that it is both her right and obligation to impose her dreams and her ideas of what is important in life on Janie. The strong relationship between mother and child is important in the African-American community, and the conflict between Janie's idyllic view of marriage and Nanny's wish for her to marry for stability and position is a good illustration of just how deep the respect and trust runs. Janie has a very romantic notion of what marriage should be. "She saw a dust-bearing...
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Works Cited and Consulted
Baldwin, James. Go Tell it on the Mountain (1952). New York: Bantam-Dell, 1952.
Bourn, Byron D. “Women's Roles in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and
James Baldwin's Go Tell It On the Mountain”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). : Urbana, Ill.: U of Illinois P, 1937.
Kubitschek, Missy Dehn. " ‘Tuh de Horizon and Back': The Female Quest in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Pondrom, Cyrena N. "The Role of Myth in Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God." American Literature 58.2 (May 1986): 181-202.
Williams, Shirley Anne. Forward. Their Eyes Were Watching God. By Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Bantam-Dell, 1937. xv.
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