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The Forgotten Years of Their Eyes

Uploaded by ywbyun on Sep 17, 2001

Although Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is a widely read novel today, that wasn’t always the case. When her novel was first published, many black readers were enraged. It wasn’t until the early seventies when Hurston’s novel was rediscovered and thus eventually brought back into the literary canon. What aspects of the novel enraged the readers so that it would be forgotten for more than thirty years?

One of the most important aspects of the novel that enraged the black readers was Hurston’s portrayal of the white people. Readers complained that Hurston wasn’t harsh enough in her critique of the white people’s treatment towards the black people. Rather than portraying whites as the stereotypical “Simon Legree” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin—the ideal poor, racist “white trash”—most whites that take part in the novel are contrarily very helpful towards the blacks and show great compassion towards them as well. For example, when Janie begins her story we meet the Washburns. These are the white folks for whom Nanny worked for and they are very helpful towards both Nanny and Janie by treating them as if they are part of the family. Contrary to a lot of whites at the time who treated blacks as if they were still slaves, the Washburns treat both Nanny and Janie as human beings rather than slaves, showing great respect and love. In a way they are portrayed as “angels” who truly believe in human equality and don’t have one bit of prejudice in them. “Mah grandma raised me. Mah grandma and de white folks she worked wid…They was quality white folks up dere in West Florida. Named Washburn. She had four gran’chillun on de place and all of us played together…” (8).

Furthermore, by reading Hurston’s novel, one can clearly see that all blacks place the whites on a pedestal of knowledge. According to the blacks of the novel, whites know everything and are always right; they are superior and since blacks are supposed to be ignorant and stupid, they should believe and do everything the whites say. For example, Mrs. Turner states that she trusts only white doctors because black doctors aren’t as educated and skilled as the white doctors. “Don’t bring me no nigger doctor tuh hang over mah sick-bed…White doctors always gits mah money” (135-136). Another example is when the Indians are evacuating the muck because they foresee a big hurricane coming and...

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Uploaded by:   ywbyun

Date:   09/17/2001

Category:   Their Eyes Were Watching God

Length:   6 pages (1,377 words)

Views:   2387

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