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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Some people could look at a mud-puddle and see an ocean with ships

Their are certain books that appear to exist solely to speak the truth about humanity. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of these. Their Eyes Were Watching God is another.

The narrator is Janie, a woman in her 40s, who comes back home and tells her story to a friend while they sit on the porch. The best description of her life, I believe, is the following. It's one of many examples of Zora Neale Hurston taking words and shaping them into something real and beautiful. It exemplifies why we need poets and authors, despite them being increasingly devalued in our society. Who else is going to carefully articulate how we feel and give us the unified thought of "THAT'S it; I thought it was just me." Writers help bind us and let us understand each other in ways we sometimes cannot through simple conversation.

When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So the covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks made them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.

Even scenes that could be melodramatic to the point of teenager-ish instead ring true. When the man Janie falls in love with disappears for a time, "[s]he plunged into the abyss and descended to the ninth darkness where light has never been." You COULD say that's melodramatic. Or you could just be honest and say "Yes, that's exactly how it feels when someone you really like doesn't call you back after you thought you had a wonderful time together." Saying the person you're in love with is "a glance from God" is...amazing. Yes. A glance. That's exactly it. Zora Neale Hurston, I hereby put you in charge of All the Words.

I believe this is one of those books where it's especially true that you should re-read it throughout your life. One's understanding and view of Janie will shift. I know many people had to read this in high school, but that seems almost a shame, because then you can stick it on the "I've already read that" shelf and feel done with it. I highly encourage you to read it again if you haven't since you were a teenager. Because it will be an entirely different experience.

Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. One of the greatest American writers. Pick this up.


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