About the Book

Book Protagonist: Janie Crawford
Publication Date: 1937
Genre: Coming of Age, Historical Fiction


Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston

‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neale Hurston is an enthralling book based on a feministic awakening of a certain Janie Crawford, after she decides she doesn’t want to cue into a prevalent gender role that turns women of her generation into mere housewives and second fiddle in the family.

Through the pages of ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ Janie searches for equality, greater involvement, mutual respect, and true love from her male counterparts, and the lack of these leads her to adventures outside of her hometown and through three marriages as she struggles to find her perfect match. In the end, she has a taste of what she was looking for and goes home a refined, better woman who is at peace with herself.

Overall Sublime Style

Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ follows a style that is both fascinating and unique all at once. The style of the book is clearly witty, colloquial, and informal – with the point of view typically derived from the 1930s black Floridian community.

Zora Neale Hurston’s education prepared her for this and helped her develop the sort of sublime style she used for her book ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ – having graduated from Howard University and became the first black person to complete studies at Barnard College.

The uniqueness of Hurston’s style for ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ was so important for the author, who wanted it to be as original as possible. For this reason, she would embark on several trips down south to record and gather the vernaculars and other cultural aspects peculiar to the people of that area.

The result of such an endeavor produces a book awash with figurative metaphors and similes, phonetically spelled words, witty expressions, and lurid imagery – giving the book a truly unique style well suited for the narrative that it focused on.

Impeccable Storyline

Every good book follows a standard story plot which usually includes introducing the central character and pinning the entire story around their struggles, life’s challenges, and experiences. This is the same with Zora Neale Hurston’s masterwork, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God.’ 

Janie, the main act, seeks more out of life than the average woman of her generation. She wants the opportunity to have more meaningful roles in her circle, her family, and society at large. Spurred by such drive, Janie strives to be different, has a list of dreams to achieve, and wants an honest and loving partner who respects and gives her true freedom and independence to achieve the things she wants.

Unfortunately, in the times that Janie lives, this thinking is considered weird and inappropriate – if not morally wrong. Still, she is defiant and stands up for what she believes, and doesn’t let these popular opinions get in the way of her joy, happiness, and resolve for herself. She plays hardball and chases this dream until she finds it – or at least tastes it, but not without having to go through the rigors of three tough marriages.

Stout Feminist Narrative

Like Zora Neale Hurston herself, Janie, the main character in ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ exhibits all the right characteristics of a proper feminist. The book seems to heavily address aspects of feminist theory, such as gender inequality, patriarchal dominance, abuse, and oppression – all of which are the things Janie fights against in her society.

Although the basis of Janie’s advocacy for women’s rights and struggle for freedom is rational and reasonable, the book doesn’t all that eliminate the negatives of having an extreme feminist mentality – in which case the good gender fight of wanting fair men-women equality now becomes something more like a vendetta or competition against men.

Hurston’s ideas through Janie’s character are no doubt meant to drive an important social change in not only the book’s reality but also in the author’s 1930s patriarchal society. However, the reader may see glimpses of needless disobliging and lack of submitting information on the part of Janie towards her husband – as she always wants to get her way. 

Powerful Tale for Gender Social Change

Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ was one of the earliest books which drew attention to the issue of negative gender roles and bias towards women and sought to redress it, or at least stir positive actions towards it, by lending a voice to what was already the norm in the early 20s and 30s.

With a few detractions from the book’s ideas based on forceful feminism, the work has proved to be no short of inspiration for later years of social reformation – especially in the area of gender roles and equality policies.

The 30’s Black Slangs are Exciting but Slow-Paced

Hurston’s revisiting of the folklores of African Americans in the South meant that she had to be true to the traditions – more remarkably and spread throughout the book being their slang and vernaculars, giving the book originality and a sort of lovely unconventionality.

The only detractor on this front might be pinned on Hurston’s reluctance to plot speed, making the scenes unnecessarily slow-paced and a bit of a drag. However, notwithstanding a few nays, Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ is genuinely a book that can have a truly remarkable impact on the reader.


Why should you read ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neale Hurston?

One of the reasons you should read Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ is because the book is such an essential piece of black history in the United States. Although Hurston wrote this book as fiction, the stories therein were inspired by the lives of actual black people and their true life struggle – from slavery through the American civil war. 

How has Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ contributed meaningfully to society? 

Zora Neale Hurston, through her trademark book ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ fights every day for equality among genders. The novel is one of the first books to advocate for women’s rights, gender bias, abuse, and subjugation of women by society and men. 

How difficult is it to read ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neale Hurston?

The story of ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is a fairly difficult book to read, and this is because the author incorporated a range of African American dialects, vernacular, and colloquial in other to preserve the pristineness of the story. However, there is also a vast usage of standard English enough to help the reader understand what is being said in the context they are said. 

Why was ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ disliked by critics?

The main reason the book was disliked by most critics after its release, was because they found the book lacking clarity in terms of it not addressing the prevailing political reality of such times.

'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston: A Captivating and Empowering Journey of Self-Discovery.
  • Story
  • Characters
  • Language
  • Style
  • Setting
  • Climax
  • Lasting Impact

Their Eyes Were Watching God Review: A Teenager's Journey to Change the Narrative for the Women of Her Society

Recognized as a 20th-century classic of African American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s greatest novel, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ represented one of the earliest voices that called for women’s rights and recognition in a society designed for the masculine. This book of Hurston’s is one filled with themes that are exciting, controversial, and educative all at once. It is a fantastic piece of black history in America.


  • Historically rich African American narrative
  • Gripping storyline
  • A satisfying ending 


  • Slow-placed 
  • Complicated diction
  • Misogynistic and overly racial
Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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