Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Book Review
The hurricane of Lake Okeechobee, the third deadliest hurricane in the United States. With wind speeds up to 162 mph, no one would ever think to stay home and waut out such a deadly storm. In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie and Teacake stay in their house preparing for the deadly hurricane to approach. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, she shows that she shares and believes in the Harlem Renaissance value of higher power, however she departs from the value of community.
Value in higher power is a strong message in the novel, and also a big value African Americans thrived with during the Harlem Reniassance. During the Harlem Renaissance, many people turned to religion to find God. In doing this people felt accepted and part of a group who all valued and loved God. “The Harlem Renaissance Era during the 1920’s, involved many African Americans who looked towards religion to revise a better life for some of these people… Many people became very spiritual and the Harlem Renaissance, brought about a more emotional and spiritual imagination” (Montanello). During the Harlem Renaissance, many of the people converted to religion, to have a higher power to look up to and feel loved by. Many people became very spiritual, leading religion to be the driving force behind many things. Value in higher power was a big value to have during the Harlem Renaissance. This value was also represented in the novel also. In the novel, there was a huge storm that was bringing destruction to the muck, where Tea Cake and Janie had decided to stay. As the storm progressed, the winds got faster leading to more danger to come upon the couple. They had nothing to do but hope, and trust God to protect them. As the storm worsened, Hurston wrote about the thoughts that filled Janie and Teacakes mind. “... their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God” (Hurston 187). During the storm, there was no hope, no one to come help them. The only person they had left to trust in was God. Their eyes were watching God, trusting in him that they will survive this disaster. This is an indication of Hurston valuing higher power, God is the higher power that these characters are valuing, believing and putting their trust into. Hurston may show her love for these values, although she also tends to depart from some of these values too.
During the Harlem Renaissance, another big value was value in community. Although, Hurston tends to depart from this value in her novel. Community during the Harlem Renaissance was very important. Due to some of the harshness and racism they encountered, valuing community was more important than ever. From the Harlem Renaissance museum, a quote that shows the value of community was found. “During the Harlem Renaissance African American’s had rights now but they were still treated poorly and had no respect from the whites. Booker T. Washington said that after the blacks prove that they are hardworking and helpful to whites America’s income that then they will be accepted and racism will fade”. From the racism and the constant need to show they are hardworking, being together was the thing they valued most. Community was a bigger meaning during the Harlem Renaissance than just being together. It was the knowing of having people who believed in them and loved them all the time, despite the racism they were recieving. Contrary to this, Hurston greatly departs from the value of community in her novel. When Janie had to shoot Tea Cake due to his new savage self, the court did not show a value in community. However it did the opposite when she realized all the other African Americans in the courtroom were against her. While the trial was going on, the African American judges were talking about how good Tea Cake was to Janie, “They sent word by the bailiff to Mr. Prescott they wanted to testify in the case. Tea Cake was a good boy. He had been good to that woman. No n****r woman aint ever been treated no better… then soon as he got a little fever from the water, she had took up with another man” (Hurston 218). During the trial, Janies' “supposed to be community'' had turned on her. The African American judges were accusing Janie of this wrong doing, and stood with Tea Cake. Hurston is clearly criticizing the value of community because Janie needed them most during this time. The only community she had in that room was against her, showing the huge amount of criticism Hurston used in this part of the book.
Due to the events of the hurricane and the trial for Tea Cake, Zora Neale Hurston showed what values were important in writing the novel. She showed importance of value in higher power, although she departed and disagreed with the value of community. The values from the Harlem Renaissance still have importance today, many people value higher power and many people love and value community. Zora Neale Hurston used this novel to show the power in valuing something. Not only did she connect this book to Harlem Renaissance values, she created a way for her readers to understand how value can also tie in with departure.