Summary of Zora Neale Hurtson’s Novel Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of Zora Neale Hurtson’s most accomplished and acclaimed novels and works in her career. An African American writer born in 1901 at Eatonville, Florida, she attended school until her mother passed away, and accompanied a theater company at the age of 16, until she reached New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Inspired by her painful childhood and sparked by environment, she put herself on the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance by publishing many writing pieces that eventually made a name for herself by collaborating with plays and writing novels, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God.
The novel revolves around Janie Crawford, born in Eatonville and raised by her grandmother. Without parents, Janie aspired to achieve life fulfillment with true love. However, her grandmother aspired a different future for her and arranged Janie’s first marriage with Logan Killicks because she believed that it would protect Janie. Not wanting to disappoint, Janie selflessly obeyed, but when her grandmother died, she saw freedom, opportunity, and possibilities when Jody Stark swung by. Star struck, Janie ran away from Logan with Jody to Eatonville, where Jody bought land for the black community and got elected as mayor. Economically improving the city, Jody gave Janie the life most women only dreamed of with lavish dresses, surplus amounts of food, and a large house, but Janie didn’t find happiness there. Instead of feeling free and happy, she felt imprisoned because heer trifled voice and identity. Trapped, she stayed with Jody until he passed away.
Not before long, Fate brought Tea Cake to Janie’s life and, again, she fell in love. But this time, she wanted to have her own voice in the relationship, and to make sure she isn’t taken advantage of, she initially treated Tea Cake coldly. But when they discovered that they truly love each other, they moved to Jacksonville, where they live together in the muck, making a simple living. However, the climax of the book arrives when a hurricane hits Florida, unleashing chaos all throughout the area. Tea Cake and Janie decides to dismiss the warnings, but experience the consequences as the storm destroys their home, forcing them to search for high ground. In the process, Tea Cake rescues Janie from a rabid dog, but gets bit saving her, causing him to behave abnormally to a point where Janie doesn’t know who Tea Cake is anymore. Tea Cake’s behavior scares Janie and she unwillingly shoots him to save Tea Cake from his despair and misery and to protect herself. So in the end, Janie returns to Eatonville back to recuperate and heal, believing that she has lived and fulfilled life and its purpose.
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