I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Set sometime between the World Wars, this novel opens up with the main character, Janie, arriving back in Eaton, Florida, an all-black town, wearing overalls and muddied up.  The old women sitting on the porch are desperate to know where she has been all this time, but Janie has never been one to gossip or mess with them.  However, she knows they will never leave her alone and maybe she wants her story told, so she has her friend Pheoby tell it for her.

She begins at the start of her life as a girl in West Florida where her Nanny worked for a white family.  She sent her to school and had hopes for her, but when she sees her kisses a no-account man when she was sixteen, she realizes that she needs to see her settled with a husband before she dies so she had someone to look after her.  Her Nanny has found the perfect man in Logan Killick who owns sixty acres and is nice if fat and old and he has been asking for her hand for a while.  Janie hopes to find herself in love with him, but it doesn't happen and she instead finds herself stuck on a farm with a man who loves her but expects her to work on the farm.

When Joe Starks comes sniffing around the farm she falls for his charm and runs off with him and his talk of big dreams and a town in Florida that is made up of all blacks.  When they get there things are run down with a collection of shacks and no government set in place, like a mayor.  Joe Starks aims to change that by telling others what to do and spending his money to buy more land from the man who donated some of his lands to start the town.  On Stark's land, he has built his home, and a store, as well as selling plots of land to others to build homes on.  Stark makes Janie wear her hair covered in a headscarf because he wants no one to see her gorgeous hair but him.  He also makes her work in the store and when she isn't in the store he makes her stay at home doing nothing. He sees her as too good for most of the town folk.  He has no interest in her opinion as a woman is stupid and not worth listening to.

This book slogs along until Tea Cake shows up like a burst of sunshine.  He shows Janie true love and how to live life.  But something must go wrong because at the beginning of the book Janie says that Tea Cake is gone and that is why she has come back to Eatonville.  This is a beautifully written book.  I first read it in high school and hated it. I can only surmise that I did not finish it and get to the Tea Cake part, because the first half of the book is a bit hard to read, but the last half makes it more than worthwhile.

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth.  Then they act and do accordingly.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 1)

An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 5)
She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 25)

Some people could look at a mudpuddle and see and ocean with ships.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 89)

Yuh can’t beat uh woman. Dey jes won’t stand fuh it.
-Zora Neal Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 96)

When you see uh woman doin’ so much rakin’ in her head, she’s combin’ at some man or ‘nother.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 111)

 “But you’re takin’ uh awful chance.” “No mo’ than Ah took befo’ and no mo’ than anybody else takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and sometimes it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didn’t know they had in ‘em theyselves.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 113)

All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshiped.  Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginnings of wisdom. Half gods are worshiped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 145)

Love is like the sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.
-Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God p 191)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Their-Eyes-Were-Watching-God-ebook/dp/B000UMN7C6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496321833&sr=8-1&keywords=their+eyes+were+watching+god

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