Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Janie is a young black woman living in Florida in the nineteenth century. Her grandmother was a slave, but she was born free. All she wants is love. When her grandmother insists she marry the wealthy Logan Killicks, she agrees, thinking the love will come after marriage. But Logan doesn’t want a wife – he wants a domestic helper. When she meets Joe Starks, he seems to be everything she’s looking for, so she leaves Logan and marries Joe. But Joe only wants her for her beauty – he wants nothing more than a trophy wife. Will Janie ever find the love she’s looking for?
This was an assigned read for English class. Normally, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. I am not interested in romance, and the last sentence would have made me put it back and forget about it.
But that’s beside the point. I did read it. But I didn’t enjoy it.
Janie is the main character. In some parts, I felt bad for her. In some parts, I wanted to slap her. She married because her grandmother insisted. I can understand that. When she decides she doesn’t like the man she married, she leaves him and marries another guy. That’s wrong, but okay. But when it turns out the next guy is a jerk, she stays with him. For twenty years! She had no problem leaving the first jerk she married – so why did she stay with guy number two?
Logan, the first husband, wasn’t in much of the book. Nanny, Janie’s grandmother, wasn’t, either. But I didn’t like Nanny much. It almost seemed like Nanny guilt-tripped Janie into doing what she wanted her to do, and didn’t care a bit about what Janie herself wanted.
Joe, the second husband, was an overbearing jerk. When he became mayor, he wanted Janie to be Mrs. Mayor, putting on airs and not associating much with other people. That’s not what Janie wanted, either, but Joe didn’t care. (That’s part of the reason I felt bad for her – no one cared what she wanted). This, again, is my problem with Janie. She didn’t love Joe, and he kept her away from everyone, but she stayed with him for twenty years.
Eventually, Joe died, and Janie got a third husband. I’d say more, but practically everything about Janie’s third husband is a spoiler.
I pretty much covered the plot when I covered the characters. If you read through it and said, “what plot?” you’re right. There isn’t much of a plot at all. Which made the whole think pretty slow and boring all the way through.
Besides the lack of plot, I had huge issues with the dialogue. Everyone in the book who talked was black, which isn’t a bad thing. The problem was, it was all written the way it sounded. “I” was written as “Ah,” the “th” sound was written as “d” (i.e. “that” written as “dat”), “the” was “tuh”…I could go on and on. When most of what happens is described through other people’s mouths and they all talk like that, it made the whole book very hard to understand.
With some classics, I have no idea how they ever became well-liked enough to become classics. This is one of those.