Tag Archives: hurston

Words Walking Freely

Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times . So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1990), 2.

Notes: Even though what Janie’s neighbors were saying about Janie was cruel, the freedom with which they were able to speak their cruel remarks was beautiful. The line, “words walking without masters” implies also that the words themselves were walking on their own. The words were uninhibited; the neighbors, or “masters” of the cruel words being spoken, did not have control and were therefore not to be held accountable for the words.

Tree metaphor

Blossoming pear tree ~ “It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery. From barren brown stems to glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom. It stirred her tremendously…She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sign and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw the dust-baring bee sink into the sanctum of the bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love and embrace in the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!” Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: First Perennial Classics, 1998. Print. (pg.10-11).
“It was a lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods where nobody had ever been. The house was absent of flavor, too. But anyhow Janie went on inside wait for love to begin” (pg. 21-22).
The contrast between the glorious bloom of adolescence and the lonely tree stump of marriage ~ a metaphor of lust and love. Janie is ruled by these feelings.

The Heart vs The Ear: Their Eyes Were Watching God

“They know mo’ ’bout yuh than you do yo’self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear. They done ‘heard’ ’bout you just what they hope done happen.” (5)

 

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York : Perennial, 1998. Print.

Notes: Jealousy can alter an event. The truth is not always what people want to hear/believe. People will make conclusions vs what really happen do it accommodates how they feel.  Gap between what has happened and what people think happened.

Their Eyes Were Watching God…

They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song. “What she doin coming back here in dem overalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? — Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?” (2).

Hurston, Z. N. (1937). Their eyes were watching god. (p. 2). New York: Harper Perennial.

Notes: The author provides a sharp contrast to the way the narrator describes the women and how they are talking about others (“burning statements”) and the way that the women actually speak (“dem overalls”).  They speak in a dialect that at times can be difficult to understand and interpret, so the reader travels through the novel from being able to perfectly understand the narrator to having to switch to dialogue and work a bit harder to perfectly understand what is being said.

Perceptual Differences

“The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.

But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990

Notes: Her beauty captivates them all (rope of black hair). Everyone observes her appearance, but males and females see different things (different perceptions of the same thing). She is already elevated as some exotic human “she might fall to their level someday.” This is the first big character description we read and it is told through the perspectives of other characters in the book. We are unable to subjectively see who she really is.

The judgement in watching

“Seeing the woman as she made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters, walking altogether like harmony in a song (2).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 20006

Notes: There’s something to be said about watching in this book, about noticing one another, and the social cues that occur. And the overall amount of judging that’s going on.

Men’s wishes, women’s dreams

“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. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly” (Hurston 1).

Notes: The first lines of the novel illustrate gender distinctions. It states that men’s wishes sometimes come to them through “tide” while others may not get it till the “Watcher” turns his eyes. “Time” is a problem because it mocks men’s dreams. Then the passage states that it is different for women since they “forget things they don’t want to remember.” They are not haunted by thoughts like the men. Their dreams are also the “truth” so in a way they don’t have wishes that are hard to attain like the men do.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990

Black Giving Birth to White

“Show me somethin’ dat caution ever made! Look whut nature took and done. Nature got so high in uh black hen she got tuh lay uh white egg…”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1937), 79.

Notes: nature vs. caution – what is the significance of this?; black giving birth to white = white people’s dependence on black people?

Janie’s disillusionment

“The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up  the road towards way off. She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman” (25).

“Janie made her face laugh after a short pause, but it wasn’t too easy…It must have been the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another that took the bloom off of things. But anyway, she went down the road behind him that night feeling cold. He strode along invested with his new dignity, thought and planned out loud, unconscious of her thoughts” (43).

“…but none had the temerity to challenge him. They bowed down to him, rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down” (50).

“She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. In a way she turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further. She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. She found that she had a host of thoughts she had never expressed to him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about. Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he could never find them. She was saving up feelings for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them” (72).

Notes: constant disillusionment, reality not aligned with her expectations,  Logan & Jody reality vs. images of trees/flowers/blooming nature clashing, constant hope/ belief of something better out there for her

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Collins, 1937.