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Key Facts

full title  ·  Their Eyes Were Watching God

author  · Zora Neale Hurston

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel), American Southern spiritual journey

language  · English

time and place written  · Written in seven weeks during 1937 while Hurston was in Haiti

date of first publication  · September 1937

publisher  · J.B. Lippincott, Inc.

narrator  · The narrator is anonymous, though it is easy to detect a distinctly Southern sensibility in the narrator’s voice.

point of view  · Though the novel is narrated in the third person, by a narrator who reveals the characters’ thoughts and motives, most of the story is framed as Janie telling a story to Pheoby. The result is a narrator who is not exactly Janie but who is abstracted from her. Janie’s character resonates in the folksy language and metaphors that the narrator sometimes uses. Also, much of the text relishes in the immediacy of dialogue.

tone  · The narrator’s attitude toward Janie, which Hurston appears to share, is entirely sympathetic and affirming.

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · The early twentieth century, presumably the 1920s or 1930s

setting (place)  · Rural Florida

protagonist  · Janie

major conflict  · During her quest for spiritual fulfillment, Janie clashes with the values that others impose upon her.

rising action  · Janie’s jettisoning of the materialistic desires of Nanny, Logan, and Jody; her attempt to balance self-assertion with her love for Tea Cake; the hurricane—this progression pushes her toward the eventual conflict between her environment (including the people around her) and her need to understand herself

climax  · The confrontation between Janie and the insane Tea Cake in Chapter 19 marks the moment at which Janie asserts herself in the face of the most difficult obstacle she has had to face.

falling action  · Janie’s decision to shoot Tea Cake demonstrates that she has the strength to save herself even though it means killing the man she loves; the white women’s support of Janie points toward the importance of individuality as a means of breaking down stereotypes.

themes  · Language as a mechanism of control; power and conquest as a means to fulfillment; love and relationships versus independence; spiritual fulfillment; materialism

motifs  · Community, race and racism, the folklore quality of religion

symbols  · Janie’s hair, the pear tree, the horizon, the hurricane

foreshadowing  · In Chapter 1, we learn that Janie has been away from her town for a long time and that she ran off with a younger man named Tea Cake; Janie then tells Pheoby that Tea Cake is “gone.” The entire beginning, then, foreshadows the culmination of Janie’s journey.

Dont read this book

by Mike_Halk, September 25, 2012

reading this book will send you into a deep depression because after you finish you will realize you spent hours translating this book into real english in your head and then you gained absolutely nothing from it.


639 out of 949 people found this helpful


by coco_woah, October 06, 2012

Theirs also a really good movie adaption of this book, we watched it in school. It's with Halle Berry as Jane Crawford.


32 out of 53 people found this helpful


by chinchilla99999, January 29, 2013

abcdefg gummy bears are chasing me one is red one is blue one is trying to steal my shoe now im running 4 my life cuz the red one has a knife im running at full speed ahead but then i stop cuz i havent been fed i feel my energy bar depleting but then a turkey begins retreating he whines about his finga and then i prone walk since i havent unlocked ninja i barrel roll into the red teddy take his knife and get ready i stab his fluffeh gooey back and then prepare for the secret attack i drop it to the groung and get a predator missile to move a... Read more


370 out of 544 people found this helpful

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Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel

Their Eyes Were Watching God (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)