Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Reading Guide Preview Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston About the Author Although Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave in a racially segregated cemetery, she had a remarkable career as a novelist. She was also a pioneer in documenting African American culture. Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, a fully incorporated African American township, and studied at Howard University. In 1925, she moved to New York City, where she became an influential talent of the Harlem Renaissance, the blossoming of African American literature and art. While attending Barnard College, she met the famous anthropologist Franz Boaz, who convinced her to study the folklore of African Americans in the South. Her first collection of African American folk tales, Mules and Men, was published in 1935. Her second collection, Tell My Horse, published in 1938, also contained descriptions of African American cultural beliefs and rituals brought from Africa. Hurston achieved critical and popular success with her novels Jonah’s Gourd (1934), Their Eyes Were Watching God(1937), and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). She also wrote a prizewinning autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), as well as short stories and plays. When Hurston died in 1960, all her works were out of print. In the 1970s, African American author Alice Walker revived interest in Hurston, helping to restore her reputation. Background Their Eyes Were Watching God is set in Florida during the 1930s. Although the story is fictional, the town of Eatonville, built and governed by African Americans, is real. At the end of the Civil War, blacks settled near the town of Maitland. In 1882, the black businessman Joseph C. Clarke bought a large tract of land, subdivided it, and sold lots to black families. In 1887, blacks incorporated the area as an independent town called Eatonville, Hurston’s childhood home. Quick Guide As you read Their Eyes Were Watching God, keep these literary elements in mind: •Figurative languageis writing or speech not meant to be interpreted literally. Similes, metaphors, and personification are types of figurative language. A simile compares two things, using the words likeor as.In a metaphor, one thing is spoken of as though it were something else. In personification, a nonhuman subject is given human qualities. Note how Hurston uses figurative language to enrich the novel. •Dialectis language spoken by people in a particular region or by a particular group. Pronunciation, vocabulary, and sentence structure are affected by dialect. To become accustomed to the dialect in this novel, read the dialogue— the characters’ words—aloud. Pronounce the words as they are spelled. •A symbolis a person, place, or thing that stands for something beyond its own meaning. Note the symbolism of the pear tree in this novel. •A conflictis a struggle between opposing forces. The characters in this novel meet external conflicts,in which they struggle with outside forces, such as another character, a force of nature, or society. They also face internal conflicts,or conflicts within themselves. As you read, notice especially Janie’s internal conflicts. •The contextof a work is the historical and cultural settingin which the action takes place. Their Eyes Were Watching Godis set in the social and cultural world of African Americans in the South during the 1930s. •Character motivationis the reason for a character’s behavior. Consider what motivates the main character, Janie, in this novel. Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide © Pearson Education, Inc. 1 Their Eyes Were Watching GodReading Guide Vocabulary 1.dilated(dì» làt id)adj.opened, enlarged, or extended (page 7) 2.consolation(kon sß là» §ßn)n.comfort (page 7) 3.desecrating(de» sß kràt« i¢)v.deliberately damaging something sacred (page 14) 4.ether(è» •ßr)n.the heavens (page 25) 5.incredulous(in krej» ø lßs)adj. disbelieving (page 37) 6.boisterously(b¡s» tßr ßs...
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