CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background. The latest generation of titles in this series also feature glossaries and visual elements that complement the classic, familiar format.

In CliffsNotes on Their Eyes Were Watching God, you discover the work of one of the 20th century's first African-American female authors – Zora Neale Hurston. In the novel, Janie Crawford returns to her hometown in Florida and relates to her friend Pheoby the tragic story of her 40-year search for love and respect.

Chapter summaries and commentaries take you through Janie's journey, and critical essays give you insight into the novel's themes and structure, as well as Hurston's use of figurative language and dialect. Other features that help you study include

  • Character analyses of the main characters
  • A character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the characters
  • A section on the life and background of Zora Neale Hurston
  • A review section that tests your knowledge
  • A Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites

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Janie begins the recollection of her life with an overview of her years with Nanny, her grandmother. She and Nanny lived in a house on the property of Mrs. Washburn, Nanny’s very sympathetic and helpful white employer. Janie played with Mrs. Washburn’s white grandchildren, and it was not until she saw herself in a group picture, when she was six years old, that she discovered that she was not white. As a child, she had happy times, but those times ended when the girls at school picked on her because she came to school better dressed and better groomed than they did; she even wore ribbons in her hair. They told Janie derogatory stories about her father and omitted anything positive. According to Janie, her father tried to get in touch with her mother with offers of marriage.

Nanny believed things would be better for Janie if they did not live with Mrs. Washburn. Nanny was a woman of ambition and determination. She accepted help from her employer and was thus able to purchase land and a small house with a yard that Janie loved.

One spring afternoon while Nanny is sleeping, Janie lingers in the yard under her favorite pear tree. Johnny Taylor, known to the neighbors and to Janie as lazy, passes by the fence and stops to talk to Janie— and kisses her. Nanny wakes in time to see the kiss and memories of her life and that of her daughter run through her mind. It is time now, the old lady knows, for Janie to have protection for herself in the form of a solid, respectable husband. The girl’s life cannot be ruined by some trifling youth like Johnny Taylor.

Janie protests that the meeting was accidental and that the kiss was innocent, but Nanny is unconvinced. In an emotional scene, Nanny rocks and embraces Janie. When they are both calm, Nanny tells Janie how much she loves her. Now is the time for Nanny to tell Janie about her own life.

Although Nanny was born into slavery on a plantation near Savannah, Nanny had dreams. The fact that she was a slave would not allow her to do more than dream, but Emancipation gave her freedom . . .

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