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  1. I’m sorry you’re feeling pressured to read the book, Steve. It has been my experience that required reading is never as appreciated as reading chosen of one’s own free will. Hopefully someday in the future you’ll be able to come back to this book and see it with new eyes.

    I’m afraid I cannot help you with the report, as I no longer have a copy of the book, and I will not do homework for my readers. Good luck with your report!

  2. OKay the book was okay but it could have been a little bit more interesting if my English 10 honors teacher didn’t make me write a report over it containing 15 meaningful quotes…. so can any body help me out. i need some page numbers or anywhere where i could find some good quotes……………..

  3. (Note from Collie: This comment is reprinted from the original posting, with my replies in blockquotes)

    I read Their Eyes Were Watching God for my AP English class during my senior year of high school. It was incredible, and I loved every page of it. It’s one of the few novels I’ve ever had to read that ended up being a pleasure!

    Oh, I’m glad to hear you liked it! I rather enjoyed it too, both just from the perspective of the story, and what the book included about the author — very interesting.

    Their Eyes Were Watching God is on my list of wonderful books. Believe me, my list of bad literature is exponentially longer than my list of good literature. Heh.

  4. (Note from Collie: This comment is reprinted from the original posting, with my replies in blockquotes)

    I remembered having read this book long ago, back in high school, I believe. I barely remembered it, save for some of the names involved, and so therefore your in-depth review was welcome, reminding me of the story and its issues. Sadly, it did not awaken any remembered thoughts about the story, back when we were reading and writing about it in class.

    While I have little so say about the story itself, there are some thoughts that crop up as a result of your words. I have read quite a bit, in passing, in regards to the casual cruelty of the past, particularly in regards to women. There was much of it in the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe, but also as recently as the last couple centuries of American history. There was one piece which I glommed from photocopies of an article I was making at work, in regards to how the casual rape of black women (both during and after slavery) not only affected the mindset of black men and women, but also white women, as an implicit threat that they too could be treated as badly and as inhumanely (the author put it better than I did, and if I can find the article and pass it on, I will).

    Yes, please! I would be fascinated to read that article.

    My point (and I do have one), is that for all that rape is still an issue today, in Modern America (never mind other parts of the world, where society has different standards), I have to wonder and ask: has it gotten better? It would seem to me that it has, as rape is no longer a casual aspect of society. It’s no longer as accepted as it was, publicly or privately. But of course, this is from an outsider looking in. As much as I appreciate that men can be raped, by both women and men, it is still primarily a crime perpetrated by men against women. And therefore, as someone from the outside of the issue, looking in, I realize that I couldn’t possibly expect to self-actualize the clear and present danger of rape in my mind. So therefore, I ask this question of you. Is it better than it was, in regards to sexual violence being perpetrated against women?

    Two thoughts:

    1) A common tactic in college classes seeking to demonstrate the social differences between the sexes is to ask each sex what they most fear from the other sex. Most often men fear emotional humiliation from women, and it is sad to say that does still happen. What most women fear from men, however, is not something as simple as mental anguish — it’s being violently attacked and raped, or killed.

    I consider this a damning indictment on our society — that even today women fear for their very safety from the men who frequently wish to claim the right to own or rule.

    2) Rape is not a casual aspect of our society as far as general open acceptance any longer, true. In a way, though, it has simply gone ‘underground.’ For example, the general societal perception of a rapist is a stranger out in the darkness attacking a woman who is wearing “provocative” clothing and walking someplace she “shouldn’t be.”

    Looking at actual data on rapists, however, tells a very different story. Nine times out of ten, the woman knows the rapist: they are brothers, fathers, boyfriends, uncles, authority figures — the very people she should be able to trust. Worse, because they are not the almost mythic “stranger in the dark,” they often feel they are perfectly justified in their actions. Their excuses are creepily self-absolving, self-righteous, and self-centered: “She came on to me” (an actual quote from a pedophile speaking of a 3 year old child), “She didn’t say no” (usually said in situations where the woman is unconscious and cannot speak), “She said no, but I knew she really wanted it,” etc.

    What point am I making here? Simple: as far as I know, rape isn’t better or worse now than it was previously. It still is — it’s still accepted and perpetrated and allowed. Until men — all men — accept that it’s their responsibility to police themselves, and it is never okay to force yourself on anyone, rape will still be quietly accepted, societally — and that means socially things aren’t yet right.

    My second thought, is trying to understand this concept you speak of sexual awakening, that Huston seems to touch on in her work. As adult as I am, with my own experiences being myriad and unusual, I somehow don’t feel like I can look on this ‘sexual awakening’ with the same kind of wonder that the passage you quote seems to elucidate. Is it because I’m more cynical, less romantic, and possibly more perverse than I used to be?

    I’m not suggesting that sex cannot be a thing of beauty and joy, but the poetry of the passage you suggest (which brings to mind some of Walt Whitman’s own poetry on the subject, actually), it makes it seem that the fact that I cannot fully empathize with these images makes me more hollow than the ones that wrote these words. So therefore I ask: what are your own thoughts this? Does it match at all with your own experiences, or the experiences of others that you might know?

    Greg, please don’t feel you must be hollow in comparison to others. The passage I quoted was written by an artist whose palette is words — just because you would not describe a personal sexual awakening in that way does not make yours any less meaningful. Further, Hurston lived in a time where sex wasn’t mentioned in polite conversation, so she wanted to very strongly imply sex without actually mentioning the taboo words; voluptuous metaphor was the order of the day for that sort of writing. Nowadays writing of such an awakening would likely be much clearer and more direct, but not necessarily any less lovely or arousing to read.

    As to your specific questions, I confess when I was much younger, lyrical passages like this often left me cold. I was far more direct and had little patience for passionate digressions in the straightforward pursuit of sexual love. I suspect a point comes in the lives of many, though, where the initial shocking richness of sex pales somewhat due to familiarity. It is at that point, I think, that people may have enough metaphoric breath to look around and start seeing beauty in associated imagery as well as the act itself. Does that explanation help any? ;)

    Finally, as a capstone, I wanted to add that for some odd reason, the movie ‘Made in America’ (starring Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg) had some references to this very book (something I’ve yet to understand the reason why): one of the main characters is named ‘Zora’, and her boyfriend (played by Will Smith) is named ‘Tea Cake’. To be clear, the movie does not in any way mirror the events of Huston’s work, and so therefore the seemingly deliberate naming of the characters is unusual, but noteworthy. (Whoopi Goldberg plays ‘Zora’s mother, and runs a bookstore, so perhaps it’s implied Whoopi’s character named her daughter after the author, but that does nothing to explain Smith’s character’s name.)

    I have not seen the movie “Made in America,” so I cannot really speculate meaningfully on why the references were there. It’s entirely possible they were included simply as a tribute to an unjustly-long-forgotten black female author.

    Thanks for another insightful review.

    Thank you! -both for the thought-provoking feedback, and for the lovely compliment. I’m so pleased to hear you liked the review!

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