Zora Neale Hurston’s work, whilst not entirely ignored at the time of publishing (it received both positive and negative reviews) in 1937, it would subsequently fall out of print until Alice Walker resurrected interested in Hurston’s canon of work with her article in Ms Magazine.
The novel follows the story of a young woman, who seeks out that ideal of love that she first witnessed a long time ago between bees and the pear tree. Her subsequent marriages and the lessons she learns from them are explained to us – from the first that treats her like a servant, the second who wants her as a trophy wife and the final one, Tea Cake, who involves her fully in his life and allows her to participate. The latter is also filled with emotion, with jealousy but also with the very love that she had been looking for.
The novel had been informed by Hurston’s own travels and experiences, in particular she brings to life the manner of speech of those times, and this makes it a particular treat to read. You are transported into the reality of life there.
In many respects this novel is a calling to the individual power we are all graced with, and by Janie enacting this as a black women, is particularly powerful to read. Although every single person she comes into contact with has an opinion on the way she lives her life, by the time Janie embarks on her journey with Tea Cake, she has come to realize that she only has one life to live, and she ought to live it the way she wants to in order to be happy – and ignore the naysayers.
We could say a lot more about the impact this novel has had on us, but we would like to encourage you to find out for yourself!
You can purchase this novel over at Amazon: Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel