Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their eyes may have been watching God, but we think we know who won that staring contest.
|American Literature||20th-Century American Literature|
All American Literature
|Author||Hurston - Zora Neale Hurston|
Dreams, Hopes, and Plans
Fate and Free Will
Freedom and Confinement
Memory and the Past
Society and Class
Not even close. Modernism is a literary movement that reached its peak between 1890 and 1940.
It’s bleak stuff for the most part, often conveying the idea that life is chaotic and
futile and everything must come to an end.
These aren’t books about robotic dogs. They’re book about robotic dogs dying…
Or worse – robotic dogs never even existing. So on the one hand, There Eyes Were Watching
God fits right in among Modernist writers' search for comfort amid existential struggles.
Just as T.S. Eliot searched for spiritual post-war comfort in The Waste Land…
…Eyes combines a personal quest for love with larger historical issues like racism,
slavery, and the oppression of women.
And hurricanes. Everyone hates hurricanes. On the other hand, there’s something else
about modernism … it’s very… monochromatic.
You see… modernism is mostly populated with… white males. Zora Neale Hurston is neither.
Janie’s problems, as a black woman, don’t fall under the category of Stuff White People
They don’t even fall under the category of Stuff White People in the 1920s Cared About.
The stuffy modernists were more renaissance than Harlem Renaissance.
In that sense, Janie’s story isn’t the same as Ezra Pound’s, Eliot’s, or Thomas
Eliot was too busy cramming as many confusing words as possible into The Waste Land to be
bothered with race relations and gender oppression.
And Pound and Hardy were probably shopping for sweater vests.
Or maybe we just need a different perspective. Perhaps the narrow lens of modernism isn’t
the right way to look at this novel.
Hurston wasn't just trying to overcome spiritual emptiness… she was trying to overcome the
double-oppression of being black and being a woman in the early twentieth century.
These were issues that no one who wasn’t black and female cared about, so it was quite
a weight on her shoulders.
She might have been a modernist, but at the same time, she was challenging the modern
emphasis placed on white men and white male problems.
So is this book like all other modernist works because it deals with depressing existential
Or is it in a different category because it discusses problems that your typical white
male modernist couldn’t care less about?
Or is Hurston a modernist who is challenging other modernists?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.
I'm sure this is 100% accurate—or at least it obscures some of what's really important