Their Eyes Were Watching God
Posted Dec 1 2008
Hurston’s real life story is interesting itself as she went against the grain of many of her peers at the time, even supporting segregated schools as she felt integration would not improve the plight of Black students and would weaken the passing down of cultural traditions. In a broader sense, the government should not force integration if people didn’t want it. Her own life was filled with success and hardships, receiving praise for her writings, yet she passed away in a welfare home and had an unmarked grave. Understanding her history contributed to the feeling of this as an historical piece. The most obvious was her use of dialect such as “Ah don’t see it dat way atall” which tends to irritate me, but it worked for me here. Her use of the dozens and other African American traditions didn’t feel contrived and settings which include the real life African American city of Eatonville, Florida also contributed to this feeling. Her politics also come out in her writing as she shows the psychological roots behind her characters interactions, as well as the complexities of race, gender, and class. In some cases, local Whites are more sensitive to Janie’s plight than other African Americans. None of this takes away from the fact that African Americans were second-class citizens, but more that African American life wasn’t solely based on responding to White racism and that the interactions of African Americans was complex, making the book more realistic. On a more personal note, as someone who thrives off of the cultures of our world, Hurston’s inclusion of Bahamians and Seminoles in the community, while minimal, was appreciated as the mainstream U.S. is still struggling to see the world beyond shades of Black and White.