Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God
- When Written: 1936-1937
- Where Written: Hurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God while doing fieldwork in Haiti in 1936-1937.
- When Published: 1937
- Literary Period: Hurston's work coincided historically with the Harlem Renaissance, though she is actually known for diverging with the politics and ideologies of many writers of the movement, including Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. In particular, Huston identified as a Republican and actively spoke against many Harlem Renaissance writers' support of the New Deal and Communism.
- Genre: Novel
- Setting: The American South in the early 20th century. The novel takes place most centrally in Eatonville, Florida and in the Everglades.
- Climax: The climax of the novel arguably unfolds in Chapter 18, during the hurricane. It is in this scene that Janie and Tea Care are situated in clear opposition to the forces of nature, and find themselves fighting against the will of God for survival.
- Antagonist: Janie's first two husbands, Logan Killicks and Jody Starks are disrespectful and abusive partners, effectively situating them as Janie's antagonists for the first half of the book. In the second half, Mrs. Turner functions as an antagonist to both Tea Cake and Janie, expressing her racist views against black people to both of them and alienating Tea Cake in particular by suggesting that Janie leave him for her lighter skinned brother.
- Point of View: The novel is Janie's life-story, told to Pheoby Watson by Janie herself. However, throughout the novel, a third-person omniscient narrator interrupts Janie's narrations and direct presentations of characters' speech. The narrator's mode of speaking is distinctly literary in contrast to the Southern dialect of the other characters, but is nonetheless influenced by the language and imagery of the characters and their world.
Political leanings. Hurston famously spoke against the Supreme Court’s ruling the Brown vs. Board of Education case (1954), arguing simply that segregation in schools did not preclude black children from getting an equal education. This kind of attitude speaks to Hurston’s right-leaning politics.