Their Eyes Were Watching God is a critically acclaimed novel written by one of the preeminent authors during the Harlem Renaissance era in the 1930s. This is arguably the best known and most controversial novel written by Zora Neale Hurston; it received criticism from other black authors saying that the novel negatively portrayed black stereotypes and pandered them to white readers.
The novel revolves around the life of Janie Crawford, an attractive, confident, middle-aged black woman, who returns to here hometown of Eatonville, Florida, after a long absence. The black townspeople gossip about her and -speculate about where she has been and what has happened to her young husband, Tea Cake. They take her confidence as aloofness, but Janie’s friend Pheoby Watson sticks up for her. Pheoby visits her to find out what has happened. Their conversation serves as the framework of the novel as Janie tells of her experiences since she left the town and why she returned. Though Jaine’s story does not end happily, it does draw to a satisfying conclusion. Janie is one black woman who doesn’t have to live lost in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams.
The novel is written in rural southern dialect so it is a difficult read at first, but once you get over the struggle of understanding the language usage the story is truly compelling and inspirational. Although it does particularly cater to the African American audience, I believe that has common themes that anyone can relate to, regardless of race.