Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Background Lecture I. Daughter of Eatonville A. Family 1. Father: John sharecropper and carpenter 2. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale
  • Background Lecture

I. Daughter of Eatonville
  • A. Family
  • 1. Father John ? sharecropper and carpenter
  • 2. Mother Lucy? schoolteacher and daughter of
    a wealthy landowner
  • 3. Zora ? 5th of 8 children born January 7,
  • B. Eatonville
  • 1. Family moved to Eatonville, Florida ? first
    and only incorporated all-black town in America
  • 2. Father served as a Baptist minister and
  • 3. serves as setting for TEWWG

  • C. Upbringing and Schooling
  • 1. she did not grow up worrying about prejudice
    and persecution
  • 2. read her mothers books, the Bible, medical
    books, and any other books she could find
  • 3. mother died when Zora was 13 ? father
    remarried and sent kids to school and to live
    with other relatives
  • 4. Zora joined sister at Florida Baptist
    Academy, but father stopped paying the bill so
    she had to work to pay for her tuition
  • 5. 1911 ? Zora left Eatonville and tried to

  • D. Adult Life
  • 1. Brother promised to pay for her to go back
    to school if she came and helped with his 3
    children didnt happen
  • 2. Tried many ways to support herself ?
    assistant to opera singer, waiter, manicurist
  • 3. At the age of 26, she lied about her age to
    go back to high school to complete her education!
  • 4. Earned her high school diploma at age 28

Adult life (cont.)
  • 5. Attended Howard University in 1919 and it
    took her four years to get her degree
  • 6. Began writing short stories
  • 7. Dropped out of Howard due to illness and
  • 8. 1925 ? moved to New York City
  • 9. studied anthropology at Barnard College,
    esp. cultural roots and black folklore
  • 10. married in 1928, divorced in 1931

II. The Harlem Renaissance
  • A. Started after WWI (1918) and lasted until the
    Great Depression
  • B. Sprang from northern migration of
    African-Americans looking for life free from
    discrimination and servitude
  • C. Hurston joined other artists ? Langston
    Hughes, Countee Cullen, Cab Calloway, Duke

  • D. Many Harlem Renaissance artists believed that
    gifted blacks could elevate the masses by using
    art to promote racial pride
  • E. Hurston believed in art for arts sake
    (remember, she did not experience the same kind
    of racism growing up) ? favored telling the human
  • F. She published her best work after the Harlem

III. Her Best Work
  • A. 1932 ? love affair with Percy Punter (she was
    44 he was 25) ? became inspiration for TEWWG
  • B. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • 1. written in 7 weeks
  • 2. parallels between her life and Janies
  • a. age and appearance of Janie
  • b. Janies husband becomes mayor (like ZNHs
  • C. Janie sits on the storefront to listen to
  • D. search for spiritual fulfillment
  • E. fight for survival without sacrificing the

IV. Narrative Structure
  • A. Frame narrative ? story within a story
  • B. Point of view ? third person omniscient
  • C. Janie tells her story to her best friend
    Pheoby Watson the plot unfolds as a series of
    flashbacks within this framework.

  • D. Hurstons narrative strategy allows for the
    most sympathetic of narrative voices. The
    narrator, though anonymous, reveals this sympathy
    through tone and the occasional subtle adoption
    of Janies manner of speaking.

  • E. Hurston uses dialogue to reveal information
    about the other characters.
  • F. The narrator relays Janies thoughts and
    attitudes directly to the reader. Most of the
    time, the reader knows exactly what motivates

V. Hurstons Harshest Critics
  • TEWWG met with harsh criticism from the black
    writers and critics of the day. Her loving and
    careful attempts to preserve what was unique
    about African-Americans and their communities
    (dialect, folktales, spirituality, etc.) offended

  • A young, and then Communist, Richard Wright
    criticized it as a novel carrying no theme, no
    message, and no thought. Apparently, Wrights
    eyes were watching for social protest and thus,
    he dismissed Hurstons masterpiece as frivolous.
    Hurstons onetime Howard University professor
    Alain Locke similarly criticized Their Eyes,
    saying it was not serious fiction.

VI. Afterword
  • Zora Neale Hurston published four novels, two
    books of folklore, and a memoir-like
    autobiography over her thirty-year career. She
    died penniless on January 28, 1960, after
    suffering a stroke at the age of sixty-nine. Her
    grave in Fort Pierce, Florida, remained unmarked
    until 1973, when author Alice Walker paid for a
    stone, which reads, Zora Neale Hurston A Genius
    of the South.
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