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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston -- Teacher Study Guide

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston -- Teacher Study Guide

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Published by HarperAcademic
An Instructor's Guide to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Note to Teachers Themes: African-American culture; folk tradition; feminism Under "a blossoming pear tree" in West Florida, sixteen-year-old Janie Mae Crawford dreams of a world that will answer all her questions and waits "for the world to be made." But her grandmother, who has raised her from birth, arranges Janie's marriage to an older local farmer. So begins Janie's journey toward herself and toward the farthest hori
An Instructor's Guide to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Note to Teachers Themes: African-American culture; folk tradition; feminism Under "a blossoming pear tree" in West Florida, sixteen-year-old Janie Mae Crawford dreams of a world that will answer all her questions and waits "for the world to be made." But her grandmother, who has raised her from birth, arranges Janie's marriage to an older local farmer. So begins Janie's journey toward herself and toward the farthest hori

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Published by: HarperAcademic on Mar 16, 2011
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An Instructor's Guide to
Their Eyes Were Watching God 
 by Zora Neale HurstonNote to TeachersThemes: African-American culture; folk tradition; feminism
Under "a blossoming pear tree" in West Florida, sixteen-year-old Janie Mae Crawford dreams of a world that willanswer all her questions and waits "for the world to be made." But her grandmother, who has raised her from birth,arranges Janie's marriage to an older local farmer.So begins Janie's journey toward herself and toward the farthest horizon open to her. Zora Neale Hurston's classic 1937novel follows Janie from her Nanny's plantation shack, to Logan Killicks's farm, to all-black Eatonville, to theEverglades, and back to Eatonvillewhere she gathers in "the great fish-net" of her life. Janie's joyless marriage toKillicks lasts until Joe Starks passes by, on his way to becoming "a big voice." Joe becomes mayor of Eatonville and isjust as determined as Killicks was to keep Janie in her proper place. Through twenty years with Joe, she continues tocope, hope, and dream; and after Joe's death, she is once again "ready for her great journey," a journey she nowundertakes with one Vergible Woods, a.k.a. Tea Cake. Younger than Janie, Tea Cake nevertheless engages both herheart and her spirit. With him Janie can finally enjoy life without being one man's mule or another's bauble. Theireventful life together "on de muck" of the Everglades eventually brings Janie to another of her life's turning points;and after burying Tea Cake, she returns to a gossip-filled Eatonville, where she tells her story to her best friend,Pheoby Watson, and releases Pheoby to tell that story to the others. Janie has "done been tuh de horizon and back."She has learned what love is; she has experienced life's joys and sorrows; and she has come home to herself in peace.This poetic love story, rooted in black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, boldly celebrates African-American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a black woman, who,though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.Originally published in 1937,
Their Eyes Were Watching God 
met significant commercial but divided critical acclaim.Somewhat forgotten after her death, Zora Neale Hurston was rediscovered by a number of black authors in the late1960s and early 1970s, and reintroduced to a greater readership by Alice Walker in her 1972 essay "In Search of ZoraNeale Hurston," written for Ms. magazine. Long out of print, the book was reissued after a petition was circulated atthe Modern Language Association Convention in 1975, and nearly three decades later
Their Eyes Were Watching God 
is considered a seminal novel of American fiction.
Zora Neale Hurston
(1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage are unparalleled. She is the author of many books, including
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on a Road, Tell My Horse,
and
Mules and Men.
Questions for Classroom Discussion
1. What kind of God are the eyes of Hurston's characters watching? What is the nature of that God and of theirwatching? Do any of them question God?2. What is the importance of the concept of horizon? How do Janie and each of her men widen her horizons? Whatis the significance of the novel's final sentences in this regard?3. How does Janie's journeyfrom West Florida, to Eatonville, to the Evergladesrepresent her, and the novel'sincreasing immersion in black culture and traditions? What elements of individual action and communal lifecharacterize that immersion?

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