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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God


by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God Theme of Appearances

Beauty can be defined both internally and externally. External beauty is comprised only of socially acceptable standards of attractiveness, sexual or otherwise. For the most part, it’s unclear whether beauty is a curse or a blessing. The gorgeous protagonist gains admiration of social mobility as a result of her attractiveness, but it also tends to isolate her because men jealousy want to possess her and women are bitterly envious. In addition, for the most part, characters’ outward appearances tend to reflect their inner character.

Questions About Appearances

  1. What is the general concept Hurston draws about beauty in society? What advantages and disadvantages does a beautiful man or woman have that other people do not?
  2. Does Hurston really think that physical beauty is usually related to whiteness? Which characters in the novel are physically attractive, and what qualities make them so?
  3. How does young Janie perceive beauty? Ugliness? Does this youthful shallowness develop over time into a more mature perception, willing to look past the surface of a person’s appearance?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Janie’s appearance helps her progress in life more than it hinders her.

Janie’s appearance hinders her progress in life more than it helps her.

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