TEWWG11th graders, our next book, Their Eyes Were Watching God , takes place about 30 years before Fences.  Written in 1937 and taking place in the 20s and 30s, Their Eyes Were Watching God is set in an all black town in Florida.  After emancipation, many slaves found themselves still poor and living in racist or hostile areas.  Many felt community was the key to prosperity.  One result of this was the formation of all black towns such as Eatonville, Fl, where  Zora Neale Hurston grew up.  Hurston observed men defining their newfound ability to strive for the American dream in tangible terms — owning a house or a business, perhaps (“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” (Hurston, 1)) — but for Hurston, the American dream was something bigger: love, happiness, independence, power, and voice.  We’ll be tracing these themes throughout our reading of the novel.  Click below to get the handouts from class, an audiobook, and a video of the movie version with Halle Berry.

Their Eyes Were Watching God double entry journal



Their Eyes Were Watching God hair as symbol

Their Eyes Were Watching God Full Book PDF

Their Eyes Were Watching God Audiobook


. . . and now for your their-eyes-were-watching-god-final-paper.

Be sure to consult your Essay Writing Overview from earlier in the year on how to write introductions, organize body paragraphs, integrate quotes, etc.  Your works cited may just be the book itself.  If you do look at anything else, you need to include it in your works cited even if you don’t quote from it!  Please, ask me if you are unsure about anything.

If you did your double entry journal correctly, this paper should be a cinch, but here are some resources to help you out:

Love as a quest: look up the hero cycle or use this handy planning sheet: their-eyes-hero-cycle-planning

Gender roles: Here’s a pretty interesting article on the changing roles and attitudes of women in the 1930s.  Notice much of this applies to Janie’s husbands’ attitudes towards her and towards themselves.

Race: ironically this novel was criticized for not addressing race enough, but I think there’s a reason why Hurston used an all black town and spoke about white-black relations only slightly at the beginning and the end.  Eatonville becomes a sort of microcosm and allows us to look at black communities for themselves without limiting them to a single dynamic.  You might look into all black communities more or the state of race relations in the 1930s (hmm, check this out too — if we can’t be part of this society, maybe we should make our own) . . . or just stick to your own theory of why Hurston used setting in the way she did.

Voice: this really crosses over all of the previous ideas.  Between storytelling and the treatment of Janie we see that voice = power.  Regardless of whether you’re black , white, male or female, we all want a say over our lives and Janie fights for this.  Also, those who control the language (i.e. standard English) tend to be those in power.  Language can be a tool of empowerment or of enslavement (it’s not a coincidence that it was illegal to teach a slave to read).  Although it was hard to read at times, there’s a reason Hurston writes so much colloquialism into the novel.  Again, you can stick to your own ideas, or check out what Ebonics (African-American English) is..  Or you might look into the surge of African American art and literature of the time known as the Harlem Renaissance which gave a new voice to many who were historically voiceless.


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