Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Hurston’s tone is one of deep appreciation and joyous celebration of the richness of African-American culture. She depicts her black characters holistically, with a whole range of flaws but also redeeming attributes. Many scenes dwell on colorful stories and playful conversations among neighbors in black communities. Although the black vernacular is more a stylistic choice than one of tone, its very presence proves that Hurston considered it something special.
More than anything, Hurston’s text is compassionate towards all of its characters. Although Janie condemns some characters for their unforgivable sins, the text takes the time to explain the mentality of every major character – giving readers the context necessary to understand why each character acted as he or she did. Thus, readers can see the often logical and emotionally moving causes that motivate each character’s actions.