Watching God Argument

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Looking Past the Perceived: A Defense of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Autumn Stern Since its release, Their Eyes Were Watching God has faced more than its fair share of controversy. At first glance, one might assume this to be because of its mature subject material- after all, Janie is a grown woman for much of the book and has experiences reflective of being such in a poor black community in the early 1900s. However, the most contention comes from the narrative’s noticeable lack of a heavy political tone, something expected among black writers when it came out in 1937. While Watching God certainly isn’t a fluffy romance novel of any kind, it feels like a stark contrast to black literature of the same period, which tended to depict mostly…show more content…
Even though many activists at the time criticized Watching God for being too catered to white readers and not political enough, there was a minority audience that found some of the experiences described in the book incredibly realistic- the women reading it. As has been the tradition for many years, women’s responses to this book, and largely black women’s responses, fell on deaf ears. These readers felt that Hurston described an individual experience that reflected a more accurate picture of their daily lives, with all the emotional and personal complexities that came with being a black woman. This realism comes at no surprise, though; Their Eyes Were Watching God largely comes from Hurston’s own experiences with a long-time lover, Percival Punter, as the inspiration for Tea Cake. Eatonville directly correlates with a location Hurston lived in (with the same name!) and even her descriptions of black Southern living come from her travels and research in the late 1920’s. Although it resonated with many, the novel isn’t necessarily supposed to be a narrative personifying the entire black experience, and shouldn’t be judged as such. As Hurston said many times in interviews, she intended to write for individuals rather than groups. Accordingly, she didn’t write the book to be a perfectly sanitized read. In documenting what many consider to be accurate to her own experiences, she also wrote down the violence, the sex, and most importantly, the discovery of
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