Their Eyes were Watching God

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Updated: Mar 19, 2021
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The novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, was published in 1937 by African American author Zora Neale Hurston. The story is narrated by the main character Janie Crawford who narrates her journey to find true love as she develops from a teenage girl to a wise woman. Considering the fact that the story takes place during the 1930s many of its conflicts surface from sexism and racism.


Gender roles during the 1930s were a mayor concept where men and women had completely different expectations socially and economically. At the time women were viewed inferior to men and were expected to marry, birth children, take care of household chores and depend on their husbands. However, those who were employed worked in factories, as maids or other low paying jobs. Where even if they were to work the same jobs or as hard as men, they were still paid nearly half as much the amount a male would receive. This demonstrates how men were treated with more respect than women, more rights and self-expression. For these reasons some chose to be single meaning that they would be economically independent. However, this would become a challenge since they would have to work extra hard in order to support themselves, which oftenly led to the desire to hurry into marriage dependency. (…, Gender Roles of the 1930s,

Through Janie’s narrative Hurston, is able to demonstrate to readers the hardships of being a woman during the 1930s. Throughout the story Janie goes from one relationship to the next in search of identifying herself. Along her journey she demonstrates some elements of feminism as she learns to make her own decisions and speak her mind. “She stood in front of Joe and said, ‘…You have tuh power tuh free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh something.’ Hambo sail, ‘Yo wifi is like a born orator, Starks. Us never knowed dat befo’. She put jus’ de right words tuh our thoughts”(Hurston p.58). This is on example of when Janie broke out of her gender role and spoke up against one of her husbands (Jody). She did this infront of the townspeople, who were surprised with how good spoken she is (for a woman). Her husband had suppressed her voice for so long that she begun to lose it, and most people in town never heard her speak since he would not allow her to do so in public. This can be interpreted as part of her feminist side since she is breaking out of the “norms” for a woman and is peaking up against her husband in front of townspeople (equality). It marks the beginning of her reclaiming her voice from Jody, who had taken it away. “Ah know all dem sitters-and-talkers gointuh worry they guts into fiddle strings till dey find out whut we been talkin’ ’bout. Dat’sallright, Pheoby, tell ’em. Dey gointuh make ‘miration ’cause mah love didn’t work lak theylove, if dey ever had any….The wind through the open windows had broomed out all the fetid feeling of absence and nothingness…Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! 

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Their Eyes Were Watching God. (2021, Mar 19). Retrieved from