Category Archives: Commonplace entry

Dialect in “Their Eyes”

“What she coin coming back here in dem overhauls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat you lad of a boy she went off here aid? – Thought she was going to marry? Where he left her?  – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs –  why she don’t stay in her class? -” (2)

Notes: dialect, gender expectations, age expectations – she isn’t expected to still “dress young”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Identity in Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Ah was wid dem white chillun so much till Ah didn’t know Ah wuzn’t white till Ah was round six years old… Whe nwe looked at de picture and everybody got pointed out there wasn’t nobody left except a real dark little girl with long hair standing by Eleanor. Dat’s where Ah wuz s’posed to be, but Ah couldn’t recognize dat dark chile as me. So Ah ast, ‘where is me? Ah don’t see me.’

‘Dat’s you, Alphabet, don’t you know yo’ ownself?'” (Hurston 9).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Notes: Janie was confused as to what he identity was as a child. The white family that her family worked for had clear concepts of what defined someone’s identity. Racial divisions.

Gender differences

“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.” (1)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, NY: HarperCollins, n.d. Print.

Notes: gender differences, reality of men versus the reality of women, dreams, truth, time, action versus watching.

I find it extremely interesting that Hurston begins her novel by discussing the “wishes of men”, when this novel is about Janie, her hardships, and her resilience. However, I think it is extremely interesting to begin this novel with a contrast between the realities of men and women, especially in regard to truth — “The dream is the truth”.

 

A New Beginning

“And when she gained the privacy of her own little shack she stayed on her knees so long she forgot she was there herself.  There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight.  Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.  Nanny entered this infinity of conscious pain again on her old knees.  Towards morning she muttered, ‘Lawd, you know mah heart.  Ah done de best Ah could do.  De rest is left to you.’  She scuffled up from her knees and fell heavily across the bed.  A month later she was dead” (24).

Hurston, Zora Neale.  Their Eyes Were Watching God.  New York: Harper Collins, 1998.

Notes: Janie not constrained anymore by her mother’s wishes.  free to leave her husband.  Nanny did what she did because she does not want Janie to have a life like she had.  Mind thoughts–making excuses.  Security for Janie

Their Eyes Were Watching God

‘…it was one of those statements that everybody says but nobody actually believes like “God is everywhere.” It was just a handle to wind up the tongue with.’

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

Note: loosing faith in those around us, realizing everyone says things they don’t mean.

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.

TEWWG

“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.” (1)

This is one of my favorite openings of any book. I think even putting the gender differences aside, comparing the way people react and handle their dreams is amazing and really shows how as humans we are all not alike. Some people’s dream lives are just handed to them, if they are lucky. Others need to wait, but most people need to work hard to make it happen. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing. What is interesting about the gender role is that in the time period of the book, if a woman wanted something for herself, she needed to work for it, nothing would have come easily to her except an unwanted marriage and multiple children. Men on the other hand were much more in-control of their lives and could afford to be less careful in their decisions.

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.

Z. N. Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

“It was a spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in theback-yard. She had been spending every minute that she could steal from her chores under that tree for the last three days. That was to say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. 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. How? Why? It was like a flute song forgotten in another existence and remembered again. What? How? Why? This singing she heard that had nothing to do with her ears. The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness.

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.

After a while she got up from where she was and went over the little garden field entire. She was seeking confirmation of the voice and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers. A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an answer seeking her, but where? When? How? She found herself at the kitchen door and stumbled inside. In the air of the room were flies tumbling and singing, marrying and giving in marriage. When she reached the narrow hallway she was reminded that her grandmother was home with a sick headache. She was lying across the bed asleep so Janie tipped on out of the front door. Oh to be a pear tree—any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her? Nothing on the place nor in her grandma’s house answered her. She searched as much of the world as she could from the top of the front steps and then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up and down the road. Looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made.”

-Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Ch. 2

NOTES: Colloquial/vernacular vs. formal narration; distinction between narrator and protagonist; symbolism of the pear tree; female sexuality, feminism, and gender roles; race relations and gender; sensory imagery; folklore and traditional symbols; anthropological background of imagery, esp. Southern black life/folklore