Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston


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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

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A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060838676
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/19/2013
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 137
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. An author of four novels (Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934; Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937; Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939; and Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948); two books of folklore (Mules and Men, 1935, and Tell My Horse, 1938); an autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942); and over fifty short stories, essays, and plays. She attended Howard University, Barnard College and Columbia University, and was a graduate of Barnard College in 1927. She was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, and grew up in Eatonville, Florida. She died in Fort Pierce, in 1960.  In 1973, Alice Walker had a headstone placed at her gravesite with this epitaph: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”


Date of Birth:

January 7, 1891

Date of Death:

January 28, 1960

Place of Birth:

Eatonville, Florida

Place of Death:

Fort Pierce, Florida


B.A., Barnard College, 1928 (the school's first black graduate). Went on to study anthropology at Columbia University.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 439 reviews.
rb924life More than 1 year ago
My Review This review is about a book called "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston. If you wanted to now the genre of this book is a Western Romance type. If you like stories about the past in slavery time you will love this book. This book consists of many people since the setting is in the town of Eatonville in Florida. Main characters of the book consist of Janie, Jody Starks, and a young man by the name of Tea Cake. Supporting characters in the story are Nanny Crawford, Johnny Taylor, Pheoby Watson and Dr. Simmons. In more depth Janie is a really complex character in this book. She is beautiful, very intelligent, and powerful. Throughout this whole story she tries to find who and what she really is and fights through all of the obstacles and finds out that she is a powerful black women that doesn't need a man to support her. Another main character in this book is young sweet talking Tea Cake who is Janie's longest lover. Tea Cake plays a huge roll in this story. He teaches Janie many things and plays a crucial role in her development. He is a strong well rounded character with only great morals. This guy is the best guy out of the other two, first husband Logan Killicks and Jody Starks her second husband. In this story the setting is really significant because it is based in Florida a little bit after slavery has been abolished. Because of this there are many African-Americans who are just like Janie and Tea Cake trying to find a home and where they fit in life. The major conflict for the most part is that Janie can not stay with a man for her entire life and trying to figure out ultimately who she is. During the course of this story she is with three different guys. She leaves two of them and something happens to the other that I won't exactly tell what. One thing that is very special about this book is the dialect between characters. Throughout the whole story the characters don't speak proper english, they still have a sense of not being educated when they speak, but it sort of gives the book a good aspect and makes it more realistic. In this book there is a lot of conversations and dialect it's the majority of the book. You don't tend to get inside to the thoughts of characters. The point of view in this book is first person told from Janie's views. I'm a high school baseball player type of guy and I really honestly could say that I was pretty interested in this book. Even though it wouldn't be a book I regularly read. It took me for a ride through the life of Janie from childhood growing up to her late forties. There were thrills and excitement to starting a new town of only colored folks to disappointment and tragedy at the end of the book. All in all it was a thumbs up. A great read!!!!!
FayBellamyPowell More than 1 year ago
I first read "Their Eyes Were Watching God" more than 45 years ago and thought it was a magnificent piece of writing. In August of 2008 I bought the book on CD, read by Ruby Dee, and I must tell you, I was overwhelmed. Ruby makes the characters in this book live. If there was such a thing as Oscars for individuals reading books on tape/CD etc., Ruby would win it, hands down. Her presentation breathes life into each and every character; their voices, male and female, through her interpretation, is absolutely outstanding. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to go on an adventure, because Zora Neale Hurston's main characters were living a life of adventure, of being nomads in America, of taking a chance on life, of walking out on faith. Amd Ruby Dee, through her vocalization, includes you in that adventure. Absolutely wonderful book and Rudy Dee's reading is like icing on the cake. Just amazing.
KATiEJB More than 1 year ago
"Their Eyes Were Watching God" tells the story of a young black womans life. Throughout the book, she encounters many new and unpredictable obstacles that, in the end, she learns made her into a better person and more appreciative of her own life. Through three marriages, Janie learns how beautiful, though sometimes brutal, the world can be. She travels from place to place, seemingly always looking for something better, she wasn't going to settle for just anything. Janie wins the heart of any reader because of her determinaton and strong will.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ships at a distances has every man wishing aboard. What a fantastic way to use imagery! Words that have stuck out in my mind for about 5 years. This book has many themes that people of all races can relate to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Zora Neale Hurston¿s amazing novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is a spectacular story of Janie, a young biracial girl living in West Florida, trying to find her place in the world. Throughout the novel the reader is taken on a knowledgeable journey with Janie as she conquers multiple obstacles, while learning to find her voice within herself. Janie experiences numerous obstacles, being lost and then found, waiting for love, wanting love, and finally finding it. The main theme of the novel is Janie¿s quest to find herself amongst the natural hardships and obstacles of life, with others gossiping about her, to finding love, while wasting years of her life, and eventually learning how to be alone. Janie is raised in West Florida and throughout the novel she travels through many cities within Florida. Janie is forced to listen to what others tell her about love, and for many years she lives her life based on what others claim is the right way. Janie gets married twice before finally finding her soul mate, Tea Cake. Tea Cake helped Janie to break out of her sheltered lifestyle and become the intelligent, beautiful, independent woman that was always hiding away deep down. Along her journey to self-enlightenment, Janie gathers significant knowledge of life, of herself, and of love. Language and dialect are two key factors in this novel. As the story progresses, Janie becomes more outspoken and is able to express herself with assurance. The major turning point and the connection of the book¿s title comes from when Janie, Tea Cake, and others are faced with a horrible hurricane. This part of the novel shows a significant theme of humans against God. During the hurricane, there is a point where they are all helpless and no longer know what it is they should do, ¿They sat with others¿They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God¿(160 Hurston). The whole concept of the book is God¿s almighty power over all living things. Both good and bad. God helps guide the people in the novel, especially Janie, on a path to self-betterment, knowledge, self-worth, and where their place is in the world. God must also assert hardships and allows Janie to fight against others perceptions, battle within herself and her thoughts, and eventually learn from all her experiences in order to become strong and independent. In the end, Janie has grown and overcome an amazing amount of barriers. To many the ending of the novel may seem quite sad and melancholy, but it is actually the best part of the novel. Janie loses Tea Cake to a horrible disease, but in that we have seen that she is capable of being on her own and has finally found her place in the world. She learned of her strengths and is self-assured with her life. Janie has sacrificed all she needed to finally be able to understand the true meaning of life, God, and herself.
snowbird922 More than 1 year ago
The book was very good the broken country english was a bit rough at first but it gave the book its character. I like that Janie realized she had to live for herself and not others. It was an unique vision into what life is really like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to choose a novel for my sophmore summer reading along with 'A Raisin In the Sun'. I choose this one thinking it would be horrible but I was very wrong! This is an AMAZING book. Some say it's hard to understand because of the language but it isn't that hard really. After the first chapter you get used to the lingo. I would recommed this book for anyone that wants a good story about love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a novel about the evolution of Janie Crawford. The story is full of emotion as Janie learns about life as a black woman in the South. She never gives up although each of her 3 husbands brings difficulties to her life. This story is also about community and the importance it plays in your life. It wasn't a story I thought I'd like, but it has a powerful ending! Zora Neale Hurston wrote this novel in 1937. It's now an American Classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the few books that I read for school and actually enjoyed. It is a beautifully written story about the nature of love, and a woman's struggle to define herself. I absolutely love it, and would recommend it, although it is not necessarilly an easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The greatest book i have ever read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book I have read this year!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was alright in my eyes. The story line to me was kind of boring and didn't realy catch my attention at all. There was a lot of extra unneeded descriptions and things it seemed to me. The main character Janie is too smart to put up with the things she does, and the book just didn't seem right to me. If you're one though that enjoys reading about that time in age when woman were forced to marry and blacks were looked down upon, then this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What is it that allows happiness and freedom to remain within a relationship? In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, Hurston explains through her novel that for freedom and happiness to exist in a relationship there must be love. In her novel she expresses her ideas of love in relationships. There are specific scenes that represent the main character, Janie¿s, first thoughts on love, the strength of her love, and how she sustains the essence of true love through memories. Throughout the novel, Janie goes through many different relationships and discovers many things about herself which in turn help her thoughout her journey as she makes her way through life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the most god awful book I've ever read. The submissiveness of Janie is disgusting, it is impossible for her to stand on her own two feet. This book is pointless, and it's only plot is a woman who keeps finding other men to run to after her marriages crumble as an escape route from her current town
Guest More than 1 year ago
Their Eyes.....was the best novel that I've read throughout highschool. I like the way Zora symbotically describes love and men throughout the novel to the ways of nature.
Anonymous 11 months ago
It was amazing. Tea Cake and Janie’s love story is just so inspiring how he died for her because he loved her! I would definitely recommend it to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I was mentally engaged in this book very quickly, it never engaged my emotions. I felt like an observer rather than a participant in the life of the protagonist, Janie. Maybe it's due to the way Janie narrates her own story. At the point in time that the narration occurs, Janie has moved somewhere beyond her initial emotions about the events of her life to reflection and acceptance. I didn't know until after I finished the book that Hurston was an anthropologist, so perhaps her intent was to appeal more to the mind than to the emotions.I was surprised that race wasn't more of a factor in the book. Race was always there in the background, but Janie's main conflict was with her role as a wife, not with her lot as an African American. The reader learns fairly early that Janie was the first generation in her family born in freedom, yet Janie wasn't allowed to define freedom for herself. For Janie's grandmother, Nanny, freedom meant that Janie could live the life of ease that Nanny dreamed of. For Janie's first two husbands, freedom meant that the husband would do his wife's thinking for her. None of them thought of asking Janie what she wanted. Although Janie was outwardly cooperative, she withheld her affection from those who crushed her spirit. Janie finally began to experience freedom as a widow.I liked this book, but didn't love it, so I'm not likely to discover the richness of meaning that would come through multiple readings. It's a book that will stimulate discussion, making it a great choice for the NEA's Big Read program.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No wonder this book is considered a classic! This is a story about a woman, a life, a culture, an era. This is a story about living life, loving, accepting, fighting, asserting, exploring and loss. The main character, Janie, is one I will never forget. What an indomitable spirit! I read this because my son read it in a high school English class and because it was also on the "1001 Books To REad Before You Die" list. I am so pleased that my son read it in school. This book is a genuine gem!
girlingreen4090 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's hard to say that any given classic isn't good. Despite this fact it is quite easy to say that I did not enjoy reading this book at all. It was assigned as a school assignment which automatically makes is worse, but over all there wasn't really anything good about it. It was hard to relate to the characters and they weren't very likable. It is supposed to have a good plot, but I just didn't find anything very interesting about it. I'm wasn't booking for action or anything, I was looking for something new and exciting, but I just didn't find it.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book in three different courses in college and it got better and more revelatory with each reading. The story is a journey of awakening of Janie from her childhood through three marriages, through joy and tragedy, and ultimate self-realization. This is a classic work of literature and an all-time favorite.
ahooper04 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Engrossing story of an African-American woman and her struggles in a time and place where she has little rights.
poetontheone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The reputation of Hurston's novel as a definitive work with the canon of African American and Feminist literature is known to most reader's even before they turn to the first page, and such a reputation is justified. Hurston's alternation between an almost surreal narrative laden with metaphors and a phonetic dialogue of modeled after the speech of black southerners may catch some off guard at first, but such a technique ultimately serves to enhance the smooth readability of the work. The novel's gives us a female protagonist in search of identity, who realizes ultimately that such a quest requires us to examine how we as human beings define ourselves as well as our relationships. Though all of this does make for a quick and impacting read, Hurston's writing lacks the ability to evoke empathy, to drive a hook into the heart of the reader, that is possessed by her successors such as Walker and Wright.
snat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another book that I recently re-read that stands up well to a second reading. Hurston's novel, unlike many classics, is as impressive and as relevant today as it was when written.Hurston's story of Janie, a fair-skinned black woman caught in the time period between the end of slavery and the civil rights movement, is the first woman in her family who has the opportunity to be defined as something other than property. Janie is unable to define herself or seek out the independence for which she longs; however, this is not due to the racism or prejudices of white society (in fact, there isn't a prominent white character in the book). Instead, Hurston takes a fascinating look at interracial racism. Janie's obvious "whiteness" sets her apart from the black community. At first, she's envied for her pretty hand-me-down dresses and hair ribbons that she obtains from the kind white family for which her grandmother works. Coupled with her straight hair (which hangs down to her waist), her exquisite beauty, and her light skin, she defies color categorization and leaves the question of "What is black?" lacking a definite answer. Later, she's an outcast because her second husband's "big voice" and quest for power in the all black community of Eatonville comes to be identified with the white masters of days gone by, and Janie comes to be seen in the role of the Southern plantation "mistress." In addition, Hurston explores the repression of women in a patriarchal society. Janie's grandmother tells her that the black woman is the "mule of the world," the lowest of the low. Janie finds this to be true in her first two marriages, as she is treated like property by Logan Killicks and is later objectified by Jody Starks. It isn't until she meets Tea Cake, a man half her age, that Janie begins to live life on her own terms and not by the definition her man has set forth for her. Whether you like the novel or not, it's importance to African-American and feminist literature is undeniable.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is a masterpiece. I began this book last evening and finished it this morning. I felt sad when I put it down realizing that this exquisitely gifted author had given us such a small amount of literature. And yet also, when I put it down I sat smiling with joy at the piece I had just read."Their Eyes Were Watching God" is basically a love story, but not. It is basically a coming of age story, but not. It is basically a story of black humanity after their liberation from slavery, but not. This book fits into no category that I know of. It is the story of a young black girl, Janie, growing up in free Western Florida and raised by her "Nanny"; her mother having run off shortly after her birth. She was the progeny of her mother and a schoolteacher who had raped her. Her grandmother raised her with a lot of love, devotion and protected her from all that she could.When the girl came to her middle teens and became interested in the opposite sex, her grandmother arranged a marriage for her in the hopes of keeping her chaste. It was a loveless marriage to a much older man and as time went on he turned from treating her very well to expecting her to chop wood, plow and work right alongside him. When her grandmother died Janie ran off with another man who came through town and promised her the moon. Joe Starks did indeed give Janie almost everything she could want; everything she could want but himself. He took her to a new town inhabited only by black people where he decided that they needed a mayor to run things, that they needed more property to build rental housing, that they needed a general store and a post office. And he proceeded to work his way into their hearts as he had done Janie's and he accomplished all that plus he built her a big beautiful home. As time went by she became less and less important to Joe Starks and he became more and more important to himself. Janie's heart began to turn and while she still loved him, she began to see him as he truly was. Stark became ill and Janie nursed him until he realized that she felt contempt for him and he refused to allow her in his sick room. Others from the community came to nurse and feed him, but his illness continued to his death. He left Janie well off and she mourned for a time and then seemed content and turned all comers away. She had no interest in another man.Then she met "Tea Cake" and the story from here on is almost pure joy. For me, this was what the book had been building up to all along, though I didn't realize it until I got here.Hurston's words flow poetically from page to page. Her turn of a phrase is so beautiful that I found myself reading entire passages over and over again just to hear the language and phrasing. Her metaphors are wonderfully fitting to the situation in the story and the book is full of them. The book is very easily read and I highly recommend it and any of her writings.