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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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Their Eyes Were Watching God (Modern Classics) (P.S.)

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Their Eyes Were Watching God (Modern Classics) (P.S.) Cover

ISBN13: 9780060838676
ISBN10: 0060838671
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Topics

1. What kind of God are the eyes of Hurston's characters watching? What is the nature of that God and of their watching? Do any of them question God?

2. What is the importance of the concept of horizon? How do Janie and each of her men widen her horizons? What is the significance of the novel's final sentences in this regard?

3. How does Janie's journey--from West Florida, to Eatonville, to the Everglades--represent her, and the novel's increasing immersion in black culture and traditions? What elements of individual action and communal life characterize that immersion?

4. To what extent does Janie acquire her own voice and the ability to shape her own life? How are the two related? Does Janie's telling her story to Pheoby in flashback undermine her ability to tell her story directly in her own voice?

5. What are the differences between the language of the men and that of Janie and the other women? How do the differences in language reflect the two groups' approaches to life, power, relationships, and self-realization? How do the novel's first two paragraphs point to these differences?

6. In what ways does Janie conform to or diverge from the assumptions that underlie the men's attitudes toward women? How would you explain Hurston's depiction of violence toward women? Does the novel substantiate Janie's statement that "Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business"?

7. What is the importance in the novel of the "signifyin'" and "playin' de dozens" on the front porch of Joe's store and elsewhere? What purpose do these stories, traded insults, exaggerations, and boasts have in the lives of these people? How does Janie counter them with her conjuring?

8. Why is adherence to received tradition so important to nearly all the people in Janie's world? How does the community deal with those who are "different"?

9. After Joe Starks's funeral, Janie realizes that "She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her." Why is this important "to all the world"? In what ways does Janie's self-awareness depend on her increased awareness of others?

10. How important is Hurston's use of vernacular dialect to our understanding of Janie and the other characters and their way of life? What do speech patterns reveal about the quality of these lives and the nature of these communities? In what ways are "their tongues cocked and loaded, the only real weapon" of these people?

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Maggie_S, December 1, 2010 (view all comments by Maggie_S)
Janie is 16 when she starts to wonder about love. She's been raised by her Grandmother and the old woman wants to make sure the girl is married off to a man who will treat her well, whether love is involved or not. Shortly after the death of her Grandmother, Janie leaves her husband for a smooth talking man with big dreams who seems to offer everything Janie has always wanted. She spends the next 20 years living on a pedestal as the wife of the mayor of all black Eatonville, Florida. When her husband dies, Janie finally meets a man who will love her truly, but the short relationship ends in tragedy.

This is a wonderful story about survival, perseverance, and, most importantly, HOPE.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060838676
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Hurston, Zora Neale
Foreword by:
Danticat, Edwidge
Foreword:
Danticat, Edwidge
Author:
Jurskis, Amy
Author:
by Zora Neale Hurston
Afterword by:
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.
Afterword:
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.
Afterword:
Gates, Henry Louis
Publisher:
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Classics
Subject:
Self-realization
Subject:
African-American women
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20130319
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
7.45x6.00x.62 in. .43 lbs.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God (Modern Classics) (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 256 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060838676 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , “A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who dont know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurstons classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

"Synopsis" by , Hurston's beloved classic--one of the most important American novels of the 20th century--follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman who was married three times and had been tried for the murder of one of her husbands in the black town of Eaton, Florida.

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