Tag Archives: eyes

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.

A mask and a shell

“What it had come to was that he wore a mask painted with the social simper, out of the eyeholes of which there looked eyes of an expression not in the least matching the other features.” James, Henry. Major Stories and Essays. New York: Library of America, 1999. pg 459. I see Marcher as hollow and empty ~ a mask not as a disguise but as a cover for a shell.

“Isn’t what you describe perhaps but the expectation-or, at any rate, the sense of danger, familiar to so many people-of falling in love?” James, Henry. pg 453. Marcher feels he is destined for something bigger than falling in love and he doesn’t realize that is the biggest thing of all.