Study Guide

Their Eyes Were Watching God Appearances

By Zora Neale Hurston

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Beauty can be defined both internally and externally—and 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 in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The gorgeous protagonist is able to utilize her attractiveness for social mobility and she gains an admiration for that. But her beauty also tends to isolate her because men jealously want to possess her and women are bitterly envious. In addition, for the most part, characters’ outward appearances tend to reflect their inner characters.

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, one willing to look past the surface of a person’s appearance?

Chew on This

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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