Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Feminist Pants” and Marriage

 

Once again, my Southern Literature class has been a great inspiration.  I must say that when I chose this class because I knew it would be based on discussion, versus my other class choice based on lecture, I certainly made a great decision. I have only had this class three times, but it has been a wonderful experience each time, opening my mind to new thoughts and ideas.  I also knew that I would be assigned books I probably would never have picked up myself, but that I would appreciate and possibly love. So, shout out to my professor, the class is awesome 🙂

 This week we discussed Their Eyes Were Watching God. I have heard about this book many times (Oprah did read it in her book club), but I have never bothered to actually read it.  When I first started in on the story, I was a little worried about where it would go. Quickly, the pace picked up and the story was interesting, real, and complicated.  Love, race, class, marriage, social life, gender roles, and so much more are part of this book.

Several things tonight sparked my interest.  Someone in the class was talking about the main character, Janie.  She said that it would have been rare for a white person to teach a black class.  This is not true, many white abolitionists came to the south to educate the newly freed slaves, and stayed.  I have no idea what the statistics are, but I do think it interesting that such a simple piece of history could influence how you understand the novel.  Historic Criticism does not enter into every novel, nor does history effect every story to the same degree.  Having said that, I think understanding even a basic idea of the history helps the reader know where each character is coming from in this novel.  Having a better understanding of this history even furthers that knowledge.  Take for example Mrs. Taylor.  I think the history to her background is very important in why she acts as she does.  I won’t say anything else to spoil it.

On another note, outside of class and during discussion, a few people believed that Janie never truly found herself, or became independent.  I must say this is unfair.  As a married woman (trust me, I know many are upset I married so young), I think that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  As I expressed in class, just because you are married does not mean that you are not independent, or that you do not have the chance to grow.  You may have different experiences, and you may even miss out on some things, but there are many possibilities there for you.  Janie is a strong woman, who through three different marriages, manages to find herself, her strength, and know how to take care of herself.  Some say that because she married a third time, she did not know how to live without being a wife.  This is also unfair.  After the ending of her second marriage, she wanted to be by herself. Janie desired to have time to understand and find herself, enjoying her solitude and time with her friend.  When the third husband comes along, she does not marry him out of convenience or to spite someone. She marries him because it her choice, and because she loves him.  What other better reason is there?

To take a piece of my life, I am married and have been since I was eighteen.  My husband, Sean, and I have been together for eight years last July, married four last September.  People ask if I was pregnant. The answer is no.  I loved Sean, and I still do. Whether or not we go apart, closer together, or fall into pieces later in life, I have shared wonderful memories with him and will always cherish our time together.  I think it is funny that people tell me I have missed out on so much in college because I am married.  I don’t think I missed that much.  Yeah, I don’t go drinking and partying every weekend. Trust me, I’ve done it a couple of times with a friend and I am fine without it. People mature at different levels, and everyone needs something different. I am glad that I married my husband when I did.  I have grown as a person, I have come to a better understanding of who I am, and I do not regret the decisions I have made.

Having gone on that rant, I see no reason why Janie could not do the same.  Marriage today, and marriage then, have often followed the same paths (even though perhaps divorce rates were lower). 

One cannot view this novel through presentism either. It is one of the number one things warned against in a few of my history classes.  When we were talking about the domestic abuse that shows up in the novel, one guy said that black men beat their wives more than white men. This just was not true.  The Church itself used to have rules for what a man could beat his wife with. There are laws against it, laws to control it, and there used to be laws to regulate what could and could not be done.  White men are just as guilty.  Domestic Abuse was not seen as it is today until recently.  Historically, women have been living with abusive males for centuries.  Is it really so surprising that even today women are trapped in such relationships?  On that note, this part of the book has be taken in context.  What Tea Cake does is almost nothing compared to other events in the novel, and even Janie’s own reaction at one point. 

While this book may not inspire the “we are making history” blog as last time, I feel like the things we discussed tonight were important to share.  Race and Class also were made issues, but that is overly done everywhere and so I do not want to go over it again.  As to Gender Roles, there were issues there, but again, not tonight.

Read the novel.  It is a wonderful book (written in seven weeks, no revision process) and worth the time.  If you have trouble with the dialogue, read it out loud. Apparently that helps 🙂

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One thought on “Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Every History Nerd Should Read – A Woman of Many Titles

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