The Problem of the Female: Marriage and 'Sistergirl' Relationships in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

Essay by divableu21University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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Zora Neale Hurston, a celebrated writer during the Harlem Renaissance, has entered the consciousness of critics, writers, and students alike with her unique way of presenting issues deeply rooted in the black community. Her writings have caused critics and scholars to re-open and re-evaluate discussion on the ideals and principals of black feminism. Along with this discussion has come much debate about whether Zora Hurston and her works, most notably, Their Eyes Were Watching God, fit into the canon of black feminist literature.

Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated all-black town in America. There has been some debate over the year of her birth; Zora herself has stated that she may have been born in 1901, however there is no debating the place of her birth, as Eatonville has become the backdrop of many of her works. As the daughter of a Baptist minister and educated scholar who appreciated the validity and genius of the black vernacular, Zora was afforded the opportunity to look at her life from a different perspective.

From her unique vantage point, Zora was able to appreciate the natural things in life, while also learning about the goodness in people. Living in an all-black town, she never experienced racism or any other type of hatred--those experiences would follow later in life, and become fodder for many of her short stories and novels.

At the age of thirteen years, after the passing of her mother, Zora was sent away to school in Jacksonville, Florida. It was here that she began to realize that the world saw her as a colored girl, not just a girl in love with books and the theater. Although this was a difficult fact for her to accept, rather than take it bitterly, she internalized...