Monday, July 13, 2009

My Eyes Were Glued to This Book

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the most skillfully written books I've ever read. It is lyrical and meaningful, penned with an urgency that the reader can sense in the lines. It is a story that reflects Hurston's gut, touching on the full sphere of her experiences. To say that this book moved me would be an understatement. It was the kind of novel that got dog-eared and highlighted in one read.

Let me give a taste of the poetical nature of Hurston's writing:

"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." (24)

Hurston herself taps into this "basin" she describes so eloquently in this novel through the use of the third person omniscient point of view. The narrator is watching the protagonist, Janie, and he can see into her heart. I believe this point of view is the best choice for the story, because it allows the reader to bond with the characters.

The characterization is brilliantly executed through the use of colloquial dialect. Hurston's deep understanding of her cultural identity shines through in the thoroughly enjoyable banter of the townsfolk. She is able to capture the folklore and the musical gift of storytelling that is specifically African American. I enjoyed the dialogue so much, it screams to be acted out. Her chapters end like pieces of a symphony. I actually muttered "Wow" while reading. For example, here is the end of chapter three:

"Janie knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up. It was wonderful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the gray dust of its making. 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)

Here, the protagonist, Janie, is married off by her grandmother at the age of 16 to an older man. Her grandmother wants to make sure Janie is taken care of, and does this to protect her. Over the course of the book, Janie finally finds a way to experience life through her own journeys and choices, rather than trying to do what others want her to do. So in one way, this story is a coming of age tale.

There is a line in this book that sticks with me because it resonates with where I am at in my own life.

Janie tells her friend,

"Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves." (192)

This seems to me to be the sentence that caused Hurston to write this feverish tale. After the protagonist says it a sense of peace comes over nature and Janie in the story.
Go to God and figure out life in your own way.
This message transcends time and culture. It reflects the urge of the human spirit, and that's why Their Eyes Were Watching God is a great work of literature. Thank you Ms. Hurston.
Picture is of the author, Zora Neale Hurston, from Yahoo Images


jenX said...

I needed a new book to dive into! I've been reading soooo much lately. My computer is on the blitz. I'm using my husband's and it's driving me crazy. Something is wrong with it and I have to click a link 100 times to get it to connect, so until Friday, I may be a little out of action on the blog front!

Your guest post should be up on Wednesday! jen

Loren Christie said...

Thank you Jen. I did notice that your comments save multiple times. I'm so excited about the guest post. Thanks for asking me!

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

This book does sound very good and you covered it nicely in your own literary way.

Mallory P. said...

I love this book. It's a beautiful and haunting love story. The first time I read it I couldn't set it down. The second time I read it slowly, and savored every page.

Thank you for sharing!

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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