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Hajir Sailors

AP English
Summer Reading Log

Their Eyes Were Watching God-Chapter 1

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board”. This line that starts off
Hurston’s Their Eye’s Were Watching God commands the attention of the reader.
Knowing that the book was written by an African American author, a female African
American author, one would tend to believe that the book did not discriminate a gender
or race. In today’s day and age so much emphasis is put on “all men and women” not
just “all men”. All this keeps the reader enticed and makes them continue on.
The first two paragraphs alone should be read many times before the reader
continues because it is written so well that one is entranced by the words and cannot fully
comprehend them. The first paragraph states that every man’s wish is far away, for some
men those wishes come true, but for many others their wishes remain far on the horizon
and forever they are mocked until they die. Hurston’s next paragraph shows the life of
women, “Now women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and
remember all those things they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they
act and do things accordingly.” (Hurston, 1) The format of this paragraph is very
contrasting to the one stating the life of men. Using litotes Hurston elegantly writes that
women forget what they want to forget and remember what they want to remember and
they don’t wish for what is far on the horizon, but their dreams are their realities, and
they do what they can to keep their realities alive. By opening her book in this way
Hurston has set up any educated reader for what appears to be an exciting experience and
she now continues by starting her story.
Hurston now tells of a woman that has come back from burying someone who has
died, but not of a natural death. While this woman is walking into this town the people
are sitting on their porches in judgment of this woman. She seems to have done
something to the village in the past, something taboo, and because of this she is not
respected. The people of the village speak of how she has run off with a man that was
not her age and that he has probably run off with her money. Hurston then ties up a knot
by showing the men dreaming for what is just beyond what they can see, “The men
noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of
black hair…then her pugnacious breast trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men,
were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye.” (2) Whether this is just Hurston
further proving her point, or Hurston alluding to her former comment in hope of
foreshadowing knowing that one of these men will have his ship come to shore is up for
interpretation at this moment, but either of these two could very possibly be true.
The reader finds out that the woman’s name is Janie Starks and that her best
friend in the village is Phoeby. Phoeby hurries off to get Janie supper and is badgered by
the other women to find out as much as she can about what Janie has been up to. Other
women try to come along but Phoeby knows that that would not be appropriate.
Phoeby takes some mulatto rice to Jane. By the food they are eating and the
dialect used we can tell that this is a black town in the southern United States. Pheoby
and Jane talk some more and Jane tells Phoeby that “Tea Cake”, the man she ran off with,
is now dead and she doesn’t know what to do. She also tells Phoeby that she won’t be
telling the townspeople a single thing and if they want to know anything Phoeby can be
her mouth. The chapter ends in Janie talking to Phoeby as old friends.