Their Eyes Were Watching God

by: Zora Neale Hurston

Suggested Essay Topics

Writing help Suggested Essay Topics

1. In 1937, Richard Wright reviewed Their Eyes Were Watching God and wrote: “The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy.” In particular, Wright objected to the novel’s discussion of race and use of black dialect. Why might Wright have objected to Their Eyes Were Watching God? Do you agree or disagree with Wright’s interpretation of the novel?

2. Discuss the idea of the horizon in the Their Eyes Were Watching God. What does it symbolize for Janie?

3. Compare and contrast Janie’s three marriages. What initially pulls her to each of the three men? How do they differ from one another? What does she learn from each experience?

4. In her marriage to Jody, Janie is dominated by his power. At several points, however, it is obvious that he feels threatened by her. Why does Jody need to be in control of everyone around him? How does Janie threaten Jody and his sense of control?

5. Their Eyes Were Watching God is concerned with issues of speech and how speech is both a mechanism of control and a vehicle of liberation. Yet Janie remains silent during key moments in her life. Discuss the role of silence in the book and how that role changes throughout the novel.