I don’t know why it took me this long to read this book. It was lyrical beauty. Their Eyes Were Watching God follows Janie Crawford through her three marriages in the 1930s South all while she explores her own sense of self, her identity, and her relation to her community.
The dichotomy of dialogue and prose narration and description is a marvel. The dialogue is written in a Southern dialect full of life and energy. While it might take some time getting used to (unless you’re like me who was raised on the outskirts of an East Texas town), it is entirely worth getting into. The dialect makes it feel as if you are sitting alongside each character and just listening to them talk. And honestly, if we can all figure out how to read Hagrid’s dialect, we can figure this out too.
The prose is lyrical genius. From descriptions of sexual awakenings to personal reflection, from interpersonal relationships between individuals to interpersonal relationships between an individual and their community, Hurston commands each and every description. By far the most harrowing piece of prose occurs [SPOILER ALERT] with the hurricane. As a Houstonian, my heart races and my palms got clammy reading those lines. I could not stop tearing my way through each page.
There were many moments that I had to remind myself that this book was written in 1937. There are concerns, observations, and ideas that are still being made today in 2020. This book and this story are timeless.
Note that this review only scratches the surfaces of the themes presented. Their Eyes Were Watching God explores post-slaverly employment and housing opportunities, anti-Blackness, women in the workplace, loveless marriages, Black community development, poverty, and more.