Overview: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God was written by Zora Neale Hurston and published in 1937. Hurston's book guides us through character Janie Crawford’s hectic journey while taking place in the 1900s. The story starts out with Janie, a middle-aged African American woman, returning to her hometown in Eatonville, Florida. Her surprise visit gets the town talking. They wonder where she had gone, what she was doing, and why she was gone so long. Janie’s friend, Pheoby Watson, visits Janie to find out what happened. The conversation that they share frames the rest of the entire book.
Janie begins her story explaining that her grandmother raised her because her own mother ran off. Janie’s grandmother worked as a nanny for a white family, so Janie grew
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It’s very clear that the historical events that occurred during the time period in which this book was written influenced Hurston’s writings. Her book was published in 1937 and it was based in the early 1900s. Hurston was born in 1891, and the Civil War had just ended about 30 years before she was born. Therefore, racial tension was still intact. Her book slightly shows the differences between black and white people in segregated communities. In the book, Janie’s grandmother was a slave and Janie’s mother was “lighter” skinned. Janie is considered to be a “lighter” skinned woman, and that has a big influence on how people view her in the book.
The story takes place in Eatonville, the “first incorporated African American town in the United States” (Sherry, Dustin). Women and African Americans were given very few rights due to historical events, including the time after the Civil War. Throughout the book, it’s evident that we see a theme that is common in the early 1900s. For example, Janie’s grandmother wished for Janie to marry a man that would be able to financially support her. Janie is forced to work hard labor for her first husband, Logan Killicks, and we later see her get beaten by her second husband, Joe Starks, in their unbearable marriage. This theme is commonly seen in the book and in the time period in which the book was written.
Dustin Sherry believes that “this story was written as a reflection...she wrote
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