- Jun 24, 2019
7 Lessons from Their Eyes Were Watching God
Takeaways from Zora Neale Hurston's 1937 novel
By Portia Zuba
Photograph by: Noah Buscher
It is hard to review a timeless classic and cultural phenomenon such as “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” What is there to say that hasn’t been said? My musings aside, “Their Eyes Were Watching God left me with 7 lessons that I would like to share and I will first share the summary of the plot for more context. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” follows the story of a beautiful, biracial girl called Janie Crawford and the three men in her life who significantly influence her choices. It is interesting that “Their Eyes Were Watching God” has had quite a number of polarizing reviews when it comes to whether Janie Crawford was “femininst.” Some say that Janie is awfully quiet in what is supposed to be her book and that she doesn’t seem to have an opinion on a lot of things.
Others, like Alice Walker perfectly worded it, believe that women are oftentimes coerced into forming opinions in order to put up a front of being feminist and that women had the right to stay silent whenever they wanted to. I don’t know what my opinion is regarding the question of whether “Janie was feminist” but I know that she was fully conscious of all the choices she made because she followed her heart and that she lived a life of no regrets. And for that, Janie Crawford will always be a character I love because she stood by her choices, valued the opinion of herself over that of society, and practically gave society the middle finger with her actions.
Similarly, Zora Neale Hurston will always be an author I respect( the whole world does too) for creating characters that defy labels and embody the complexity of being human for we are never black or white but various shades of grey. Now that we have a sense of what the book is about, I will jump into my 7 takeaways:
- Society will mostly have preconceived notions about me as a woman and in some spaces as a black woman, and it is up to me to spend the rest of my life trying to challenge those notions or to simply live my own life.
- Falling in love is not an end in itself. It is a means of learning new things, of feeling otherworldly sensations, of flirting with danger, of finding companionship, of discovering yourself.
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder until the beholder is a community of color with lingering effects of colonialism.
- A woman’s biggest superpower is a fat bank balance for it protects her, to a great extent, from the Thanoses of this world.
- A bad marriage is like a spiteful ghost. Some days it wreaks havoc and leaves broken glass everywhere. Other days it will grant you moments of piece but you can’t enjoy them because of the ghost’s lingering, overbearing presence.
- Fulfilling other people’s dreams by sidelining yours is too big a burden- one that will make your hair and clothes smell like lost youth and resentment.
- Some people have the unique ability to suck the youth out of your features and others have the ability to iron the wrinkles out of your forehead with just their glance, the power to moisturize your dry, leathery skin with their smile, and the potential to breathe life into you and to command your bones to get some flesh with their touch.
- Author: Zora Neale Hurston
- Published in: 1937
- Pages: 219