March 15, 2017 by thewashingteenian
By Marinia Powell, Staff Reporter and Senior Staff Photographer
Our Classic Book of the Month for the month of March is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
What is it about? Usually, with classic books we’re able to conclude that after some reflection on the story. “The Great Gatsby” was a cautionary tale, “Pride and Prejudice” was about looking beneath the surface, and, yes, “Frankenstein” proved why grave robbing is illegal now. But seemingly, when reflecting on this book, there is no meaning.
Zora Neale Hurston, the author, was born in 1891, although she changed the date throughout her life. Hurston experienced financial insecurity throughout her life, but maintained a unique personality throughout her life. She co-wrote a play with Langston Hughes and was a part of the Harlem Renaissance but also criticized the school integration decision in the case of “Brown v. the Board of Education.”
At her first award dinner she won four awards, and at the after party she strode in, dramatically threw her colorful scarf over her shoulder, and called out “Color Struck!” the name of her award winning play, forcing the party to temporarily stop and look at her.
While traveling through Haiti recording stories from the black community she wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God over the course of a few weeks (this was probably not one of the stretched truths she put in her autobiography, “Dust Tracks on a Road” but with 256 pages worth of well written story I wish it was).
It was published in 1937, with little praise. Her fellow Harlem Renaissance writers found it to have too much emphasis on the folk aspect of the black community as well as a misrepresentation of black men with no real meaning.
At it’s core, the book is the story of the protagonist Janie Crawford’s life. But what is the meaning? It doesn’t follow her from birth to death, it follows her from seventeen to forty, and she never really reaches an epiphany.
One way to view her story is as a lesson. All major changes in her life come from other people. Maybe that’s not because she’s passive, but because of the world she lives in which also means that her choices were more rebellious than they seem. Instead of staying on the farm her whole life, Janie follows a smooth talking stranger to a completely new place.
Instead of staying as a proper mayor’s the wife the rest of her life, she follows another, younger man to a new place and changes in her fancy skirts and dresses for overalls. Janie’s story is, like any other book, what you take away from it.