Tina Turner belts out a great 80’s tune about love and relationships and her personal point-of-view on the whole age-old matter of that interpersonal sparking that goes on between man and woman. That tune kept running through my mind as I read Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I think Janie and Tina would have been soul sisters or at least would have gone out for a girl chat at the local Starbucks.
TEWWG is not a title I would have picked up on my own. I’m not a fan of dialect-heavy text, hence I don’t do a lot of Mark Twain either. Simply tell me the person is Irish, Swedish, Southern, or illiterate Northern and I get the idea. All the enhanced ‘taint so, hissa, and blimeys wear on my inner ear after awhile. Since Hurston’s book is on my list of AP Literature texts we will explore in class next year I have plucked away at Janie’s vernacular and have come away an enriched reader. Why? Hurston’s writing style is mesmerizing. I also came away with another plucky female protagonist to add to my list. Janie is a survivor, and an admirable individual with or without a man in her life. She’s got chutzpah. Janie is one of literature’s greatest philosopher’s concerning love:
“Love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore” (20.7).
We as readers witness how Janie experiences love in three different forms: an unwilling, immature teenager who’s ignited imaginings of love are reduced to serving as a farm hand; a trophy wife whose own needs become buried as her social position rises; and finally as the woman fulfilled in a marriage of choice.
Written in 1937 (literary wagging tongues say Hurston did so in seven weeks), Hurston’s novel covers many issues reflective of the times. If we can set those aside and concentrate on Janie, I would comment on how Janie set a standard worth noting: marry for love, even if it cross grains tradition and common sense.
What does love have to do with marriage? Everything, according to Janie. Tina gave us her opinion about it in the eighties, but Janie had it hands-down in thirties. Let the love meet you on the shore of life.
- Happy Birthday, Tina Turner! See Her 8 Sexiest and Leggiest Moments (fabsugar.com)
- the green space: 75th anniversary of “their eyes were watching God” (blkcowrie.wordpress.com)
- Zora Fest inspires fans of Zora Neale Hurston (tcpalm.com)
- 100 Novels Reading List 61-70 (ellenclarke.com)
- Alice Walker reads from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (rawstory.com)
P.S. Halle Berry presents an admirable Janie in the movie version of the book. While the movie condenses the book greatly, Janie’s character is captured well by the beauteous Berry.