Essay on Black Readers of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Essay on Black Readers of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Length: 1609 words (4.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The Enraged Black Readers of Their Eyes Were Watching God

 
   Although Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is a widely read novel today, that wasn't always the case. When her novel was first published, many black readers were enraged. It wasn't until the early seventies when Hurston's novel was rediscovered. What aspects of the novel enraged the readers so that it would be forgotten for more than thirty years?

 

One of the most important aspects of the novel that enraged the black readers was Hurston's portrayal of the white people. Readers complained that Hurston wasn't harsh enough in her critique of the white people's treatment towards the black people. Rather than portraying whites as the stereotypical "Simon Legree" of Uncle Tom's Cabin-the ideal poor, racist "white trash"-most whites that take part in the novel are contrarily very helpful towards the blacks and show great compassion towards them as well. For example, when Janie begins her story we meet the Washburns. These are the white folks for whom Nanny worked for and they are very helpful towards both Nanny and Janie by treating them as if they are part of the family. Contrary to a lot of whites at the time who treated blacks as if they were still slaves, the Washburns treat both Nanny and Janie as human beings rather than slaves, showing great respect and love. In a way they are portrayed as "angels" who truly believe in human equality and don't have one bit of prejudice in them. "Mah grandma raised me. Mah grandma and de white folks she worked wid...They was quality white folks up dere in West Florida. Named Washburn. She had four gran'chillun on de place and all of us played together..." (8).

 

Furthermore, by reading Hurston's novel, one can clearly see that all blacks place the whites on a pedestal of knowledge. According to the blacks of the novel, whites know everything and are always right; they are superior and since blacks are supposed to be ignorant and stupid, they should believe and do everything the whites say. For example, Mrs. Turner states that she trusts only white doctors because black doctors aren't as educated and skilled as the white doctors. "Don't bring me no nigger doctor tuh hang over mah sick-bed...White doctors always gits mah money" (135-136). Another example is when the Indians are evacuating the muck because they foresee a big hurricane coming and the blacks don't evacuate stating that since the whites aren't evacuating there's no reason to.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Essay on Black Readers of Their Eyes Were Watching God." 123HelpMe.com. 21 Nov 2018
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=12097>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Free Essays - Southern Black Vernacular in Their Eyes Were Watching God

- Use of the Southern Black Vernacular in Their Eyes Were Watching God "The monstropolous beast had left his bed. The two hundred miles an hour wind had loosed his chains. He seized hold of his dikes and ran forward until he met the quarters; uprooted them like grass and rushed on after his supposed-to-be conquerors, rolling the dikes, rolling the houses, rolling the people in the houses along with other timbers. The sea was walking the earth with a heavy heel. ‘De’ lake is comin’!’ Tea Cake gasped."J This excerpt from Zora Neale Hurston’s book, Their Eyes Were watching God, is an example of her amazing writing....   [tags: Their Eyes Were Watching God Essays]

Free Essays
720 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on the Voice of Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God

- The Powerful Voice of Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God The world of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God was one of oppression and disappointment. She left the world of her suffocating grandmother to live with a man whom she did not love, and in fact did not even know. She then left him to marry another man who offered her wealth in terms of material possessions but left her in utter spiritual poverty. After her second husband's death, she claims responsibility and control of her own life, and through her shared love with her new husband, Teacake, she is able to overcome her status of oppression....   [tags: Their Eyes Were Watching God Essays]

Research Papers
1795 words (5.1 pages)

Zora Neale Hurston and Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay examples

- Zora Neale Hurston and Their Eyes Were Watching God     Zora Neale Hurston an early twentieth century Afro-American feminist author, was raised in a predominately black community which gave her an unique perspective on race relations, evident in her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Hurston drew on her on experiences as a feminist Afro-American female to create a story about the magical transformation of Janie, from a young unconfident girl to a thriving woman.  Janie experiences many things that make her a compelling character who takes readers along as her companion, on her voyage to discover the mysteries and rewards life has to offer.              Zora Neale Hurston was, the...   [tags: Their Eyes Were Watching God Essays]

Free Essays
3388 words (9.7 pages)

Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston Essay

- ... "They plan and they fix and they do, and then some kitchen-dwelling fiend slips a scorchy, soggy, tasteless mess into their pots and pans. Janie was a good cook, and Joe had looked forward to his dinner as a refuge from other things. So when the bread didn’t rise, and the fish wasn’t quite done at the bone, and the rice was scorched, he slapped Janie until she had a ringing sound in Their Eyes Were Watching God 85 her ears and told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store" (pg 87)....   [tags: Black people, White people, African American, Race]

Research Papers
957 words (2.7 pages)

Analysis Of The Book ' Their Eyes Were Watching God ' Essay

- ... The guidance from the different people that Hurston incorporated throughout was definitely required. Each and every character provided another with the things that they needed but did not possess at that time. Janie’s views on what a relationship seemed to be more give and take within the relationship as well as mutual respect. First the failure of the marriage with Logan and then Jody, after that Janie meets Tea Cake and seems to find her perfect idea of love. Hurston is going for a more honest story line, to me something like a love story with no intentions of tying on racism....   [tags: African American, Zora Neale Hurston, Black people]

Research Papers
1545 words (4.4 pages)

Essay Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

- At some point in any person’s life he or she will be the victim or victimizer of stereotyping. This all too familiar aspect of society is one of the most unfortunate occurrences in life. For many, the harsh generalizations that stereotypes are based on crush the spirit of free will. Yet there are some brave people who choose to counter these stereotypes and live life as they choose, despite what judgments may come. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character, Janie—an African American woman of the 1930’s, struggles with accepting the stereotypes that affect her life....   [tags: Literary Analysis]

Research Papers
1783 words (5.1 pages)

Comparing Black Boy and Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

- Black Boy and Their Eyes Were Watching God      After World War I, Harlem became known for the sudden emergence of literature, theater and music attributed to the migration of African Americans from the South and other cities. Both Zora Neal Hurston and Richard Wright emerged as writers this time, this, however, should not be the sole basis for comparison of their writing as writers themselves. Both Wright and Hurston had different agendas as writers and it is not as important to note their upbringing and backgrounds, but their audiences and the reason that drove them to write....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Research Papers
1280 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on Reflections Of Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston

- ... It is here that readers get the most vivid description of segregation throughout the book. It was said that, “...they must be careful to separate the white corpses from the black ones, because the white bodies will be placed in coffins while the black ones will be buried in a mass grave.” (“Their,” Novels.) By separating the deceased based on their skin color, this furthermore divides the society and represents actual events that occurred. As the story progresses, Janie is face-to-face with a decision- to shoot her husband or to not....   [tags: Black people, White people, African American]

Research Papers
1470 words (4.2 pages)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Essay

- Zora Neale Hurston was a remarkable woman and writer of the early 20th century. Her works were thought provoking and radical for a woman of color in the early 20th century. Her works evoked a sense of control for women of color. Hurston’s work did not go without ridicule; some of the ridicule came from her fellow African-American counterparts, such as Alain Locke and Richard Wright. These two ridiculed the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and her place in the literary canon. Over the course of the years, many professionals have argued the need to include Hurston and her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God....   [tags: women of color, false gods, teaching]

Research Papers
1491 words (4.3 pages)

eyes watching god Essay examples

- In the beginning of the 20th century, it was a new era for everything, especially literature. Two new and unique literary movements began; Local Color and Naturalism. Local Color with its distinct character tone and Naturalism with its weak main character was knowingly cherished by readers. As a response to Darwinism and the inequality in America, Naturalism opened Americans’ eyes of the individual being defeated by society. Local Color freed the minds of the readers as well as the writers by putting the tone of the actual character, not everyone being sophisticated and educated....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
2091 words (6 pages)

Related Searches

If there were to be a destructive hurricane, then the whites would be sure to know of it due to their ample knowledge of science and would definitely evacuate along with the Indians. "Dey don't always know. Indians don't know much uh nothin', tuh tell de truth. Else dey'd own dis country still. De white folks ain't gone nowhere. Dey oughta know if it's dangerous" (148). According to Hurston's novel, not only are the whites kind but also they know everything and black people acknowledge this fact, thus making themselves inferior to the whites.

 

Of course not all whites are depicted as "angels". For example we meet "Mistis" in Nanny's story and learn of her cruel behavior towards Nanny and her baby who is Janie's mother. Furthermore, later in the novel we encounter the two whites who force Teacake to burry the dead bodies despite the fact that he is a free man. However, it is interesting to note that the character with the most hatred towards blacks, and thus is later most remembered by the reader, isn't a white character but a mulatto woman named Mrs. Turner. Mrs. Turner believes that since she has white blood in her, she is more worthy than the more dark-skinned people. Furthermore she believes that black people are the hindrances that are holding people like herself and Janie back from being accepted by the whites. She cannot accept the fact that Janie is married to someone as black as Teacake and states that there are too many blacks already and thus they should "lighten up the race". She is the Simon Legree of the novel and displays more hatred and discontent of blacks than any other white character in the novel. "Ah can't stand black niggers. Ah don't blame de white folks from hatin' 'em 'cause Ah can't stand 'em mahself. 'Nother thing, Ah hates tuh see folks lak me and you mixed up wid 'em. Us oughta class off" (135). Such ironic situations such as this can only instigate readers to dislike Hurston's novel.

 

The issue of race isn't the only reason for the discontent of the readers. The fact that Hurston portrayed the community of blacks as always being jolly and having no worries, when in reality they were disregarded by the white society and ill-treated, further outraged the readers. During the majority of the novel when Janie was married to Joe Starks and also when she was living with Teacake in the muck, a common scene is repeated over and over again. The scene of blacks sitting around the porch of either Joe Stark's shop porch or Teacakes porch, entertaining themselves with stories and jokes, is too unreal for the readers. These blacks, unlike the blacks in reality, lack the daily problem of racial discrimination and also live in a worry-free world where everything seems to be perfect. By depicting such scenes, Hurston conceals the harshness of the real world that millions of blacks experience constantly in their every day lives.

 

Furthermore, one of the main themes of the novel deals with the struggle between men and women. Although Janie's final love Teacake is the ideal man of her dreams, her previous two husbands turn out to be not so ideal. Logan, her first husband, was at first a loving man. However, as time went by, he began to lose interest in Janie's physical beauty and always complained about her not helping him enough with the farm and how spoiled she was. "If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah fust wife never bothered me 'bout choppin' no wood nohow. She'd grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten" (25). Joe Starks, her second husband (although they never really got married), was a man who merely used Janie's physical beauty to show her off to the town as a trophy wife. Contrary to Logan, he didn't want her to do any hard work, but, on the contrary, expected her to tend the store all day and act like a mayor's wife. He had no respect for her opinions and incessantly ordered her around. "Ah done told you time and time agin tuh stick all dem papers on dat nail! All you got tuh do is mind me. How come you can't do lak Ah tell yuh?" (66). "[Women] just think they's thinkin'. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don't understand one" (67). Furthermore, when both Janie and Joe become older, Joe tries to conceal his old physical features by pointing out the faults of Janie's physique. He constantly makes Janie the subject of laughter to others in the store by teasing her. "Don't stand dere rollin' yo' pop eyes at me wid yo' rump hangin' nearly to yo' knees!" (74). Due to the fact that most critics were men at the time the novel was published, such negative depiction of men would have insulted the readers themselves, thus resulting in criticism of Hurston's novel.

 

As one can clearly see, such characteristics of Hurston's novel weren't themes to please the readers of that era when the whites suppressed blacks and most-or possibly all-critics were males. However, that era has dissipated and a new era has been born. The readers today appreciate Hurston's novel by surpassing the issues of black versus white and issues of male versus females. Instead, we concentrate on Janie herself as an individual who spends her entire life searching for her ideal love: her desire to be a "tree in bloom" with "kissing bees" surrounding her "bursting buds". It is only with this point of view that one can truly appreciate Hurston's work of art.

 

 

Works Cited and Consulted

 

Callahan, John F. " 'Mah Tongue is in Mah Friend's Mouff' : The Rhetoric of lntimacy and Immensity 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.

 

Clinton, Austin. "The Negative Reception of Their Eyes Were Watching God” Web Site.  Austin Clinton, ed. 11/16/01.   Available at www.1.am/zora

 

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper & Row, 1937.

 

---. "Conjured Into Being: Zora Neale Hurston." Tim Gallaher, USC E texts. Online. Internet. 8 October 2000.

Available < http: 11 www. ñ hsc. usc.edu/ ~ gallaher/ hurston/ hurston. html>.

 

Johnson, Barbara. "Reaction of Black Readers to 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.

 

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.

 

Wright, Richard. "Review of Their Eyes Were Watching God." Zora Neale Hurston - Critical Perspectives Past and Present. Eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 1993
Return to 123HelpMe.com