Down Goes Hurston

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s is a great time for black artists; it is a rebirth of art, music, books and poetry. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God Janie, the protagonist, is treated kindly for a black women. She does not go through the torment of black culture during that era or the previous eras. Throughout the book Hurston "fibs" about racial oppression. Janie gets respect by the white people she encounters. Hurston makes the reader imagine that African-American life is easygoing. Richard Write’s critique of Their Eyes Were Watching God is accurate and therefore, the book should not be included in the Harlem Renaissance.

Hurston breaks several of the themes of the Harlem Renaissance. One in particular is to make other Americans aware of the African-American experience. Richard Write states, "Their eyes, as a novel, exploits those quaint aspects of Negro life that satisfied the tastes of a white audience. It did for literature what the minstrel show did for theater, that is, made white folks laugh"(1). Write, as a critic, fulfills his duty to critique literature truthfully. In Hurston’s novel she rarely states anything about the reality of the South at that time. ‘"Brothers and sisters, since us can’t never expect tuh better our choice, Ah move dat we make Brother Starks our Mayor until we can see further"’(40). In this passage Hurston uses a soft pleasant type of diction. In that south at the time, people were not accepted into towns if they were new to the area. Jody, Janie’s second husband, takes charge and becomes the mayor. The people in the novel respect Jodie and Janie. Being a black man and also the mayor seems a little strange for the South. Most white people of the South dislike black people because most black people are thought to be only "slaves" even though slavery was abolished. Towards the end of the novel Janie is on trial for the murder of Tea Cake, who is Janie’s third husband. ‘"We find the death of Vergible Woods to be entirely accidental and justifiable, and that no blame should rest upon the defendant Janie Woods"’(179). Janie is found not guilty for the murder of her husband. The reader thinks that Janie is really lucky. She is, but in history books black people are always guilty in every single trial. It is unheard of that a white jury could find a black person not guilty. Janie accepts that although she is not white; she still gets respect by everyone in the town.

For the duration of the book Hurston does not write to protest racial oppression. This breaks yet another theme of Harlem Renaissance writing. She discusses black life as if it were the same as white life. She neglects to mention any information to protest racial oppression. Hurston does this by writing a melodious novel; it is very appealing to the reader. ‘"What she doin’ coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? -Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?"’(2). In this passage Hurston appeals to the reader. She is trying to use pleasant vernacular while getting her point across. No where does Hurston attempt to state any opposition to racial oppression. Again, she is making the book sound like black culture is effortless and simple. ‘"Tea Cake, Ah ‘clare Ah don’t know whut tuh make outa you. You’se so crazy. You better lemme fix you some breakfast"’(102). This sounds exactly like a normal white person conversation. Most blacks of that era could only dream about the getting breakfast in morning. In tradition most blacks would wake up on cold hard earth and go straight to work, and yet Hurston disregards to state reality. Even though the book is fiction, it must obey the three themes of the Harlem Renaissance. Racial oppression includes lynching and Hurston does not express these racist actions. In the course of the novel Janie does not receive much punishment from any people, and the punishment she does receive is not severe. The only time she is hurt is when Tea Cake beats her to show the town that he is the boss. ‘"Good evenin’, Mis’ Starks," he said with a sly grin as