Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

eyeswatchinggod.jpg"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men." That's the beginning of Zora Neale Hurston's masterpiece, Their Eyes were Watching God. This isn't a book that you would normally find on my blog, but thanks to Becky's book club, I decided to read it and I'm so glad that I did. It's a true modern classic both in the tale it tells and the way in which it is told. Hurston's writing is some of the finest that I have read. I commented on Becky's blog that I could've filled a whole quotes journal with quotes from this book. She writes with such heartfelt grace and pours such soul into her characters. She has ways of describing scenes that are unimaginable yet perfect. No one else but Hurston could ever come up with the some of the phrases that she so beautifully puts together. She alters between the vivid, more literary descriptions given in her narrative and the African American dialect of the south right after the abolition of slavery used in the dialogue. The latter took some getting used to for me at first before it began to flow, but once I got used to it, it really brought the characters to life. The story centers around Janie who is born right after slavery is abolished. Janie is an incredibly strong woman who has much to overcome despite being born a "free" black woman. She is married to two men who still treat her somewhat like a slave before meeting a man who truly treats her well despite a few flaws in my opinion. But even with this marriage, she is doomed to struggle and forced to keep her strong exterior. This is a novel of fighting...of overcoming things that most of us can't even imagine having to overcome. I shouldn't speak so generally. I should just speak for myself. When I read novels like this, it really makes me think of how far the world has come and how far we still have to go. Janie was a black woman in the late 1800's. She was fictional of course, but there were many women like her. While many faced few problems, black women passed their lives silently each day letting things slip by that shouldn't have...and it still happens today. Janie did of course grow a voice for herself and black women have grown a much bigger voice for themselves today. But they still remain a minority. There is still that word - minority. Hurston has certainly written a powerful, beautiful, meaningful, and thought provoking novel here and I'm sure it has made many think as much as it has me. I leave you with another quote that I absolutely loved: "Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."

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