Tag Archives: their eyes were watching god

Hurston and Language

“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 feeling 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 trest is left to you.'”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2000. Print. pp. 35

Here it is interesting how Hurston juxtaposes the language of the narrator with that of the character’s dialogue and suggests how inner thoughts are not always mirrored in outer speech.

Genesis in Their Eyes Were Watching God

     “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.”

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. 1.

It’s interesting how this passage starts off with the division of men and women. It shows how dreams are interpreted to men and how they are for women. The beginning of the book starts off as Genesis when they describe the fall of man and woman. It shows the difference between men and women and stresses on the dreams that they each hold.

Understanding the language

“It’s hard for me to understand what you mean, de way you tell it. And then again Ah’m hard of understandin’ at times” (7)

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006.

This passage stood out because I felt as though I could relate to this exact statement. The way that Janie speaks is hard to read and get used to. As she started telling her story, I thought it would be hard to follow because of the language used. I think this line is as much for the reader as it is for Pheoby.

The use of language to emphasize the difference of race and class

“‘What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? 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 le forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?–Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid?–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?–‘”

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. 2.

This passage was interesting because it was the first time Zora Neale Hurston used dialect to immerse the reader into the perspective of the character. The way the character talks is not standard English and in fact she uses a different language to show the reader the difference in class and race. The use of language reminds me of the novel “Untouchable” as well because Bhaka always had traces of his own language in combination with English to show the reader how he was different from an English person.

Nora Neale Hurtson and Race

“The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was he time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been toungeless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and brutes had occupied their skin. But now the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They had became the lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgement”.

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. 2.

I think its interesting that Nora starts off her book on the note of racism which is continually prevalent throughout the novel. The black people of their town, Eatonville, feel repressed by the “whites” of their town. Life would be better if they lived without “judgement”. I think that this sets the tone of race in the book further more and the repression these people feel.