Their Eyes Were Watching God Theme Analysis

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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Criticized for painting an unnatural, almost pastoral picture of African-American life in the south, Zora Neale Hurston=s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was panned by the public, and later shelved on bookcases to gather dust. By passing over the story of Janie Crawford, readers lost a remarkable novel, not about the injustices whites had committed on the blacks, but the many paths a human life can take on the journey through life. Essentially, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel that follows the character of Janie Crawford as she evolves through each unique event that occurs in her life, leading to the strong theme of self-discovery that the author vividly portrays through metaphorical language.

First published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a product of the Harlem Renaissance, a time in which African-Americans contributed large volumes of creativity to the American culture. Richard Wright, a contemporary of Hurston=s, said that her novel was themeless and meaningless, while at the same time, W.E.B.

DuBois, founder of the NAACP, was pushing the Harlem Renaissance notion of "twoness," a belief that one had to be award of their identity. A reader can draw a strange paradox between "twoness" and "themeless" when discussing Hurston's novel, especially since it is evident that Their Eyes Were Watching God has a prevalent self-discovery theme, much like "twoness." It can be inferred that Hurston put her opening line where she did to draw attention to the difference between "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board (1)," while ". . . women forget all those things they don=t want to remember, and remember everything they don=t want to forget (1)." Men dream and dream forever, while women dream and then do something about it. As one of the few women...