When Their Eyes Were Watching God was first released in 1937, there were many mixed reviews criticizing the novel.
White critics received the novel as a well intimate portrait of southern blacks. While, African- American reviewers stated the novel as pandering to white audiences and perpetuating stereotypes (Telgen 300). However, for the last twenty years more attention has been put upon the novel, due to the use in many college courses across the country (Telgen 300). In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses diction and syntax to inform readers of Janie’s “Grand Adventures”.
Zora Neale Hurston’s “varied life, insatiable curiosity, and profound wit made her one of the most fascinating writers” in America (Telgen 301). Even her date of birth still remains a history; in her autobiography she claims to be born on January 7, 1903, but he family members swore she was born sometime between 1891 and 1902 (Telgen 301). However, one that is for certain is she was born in Eatonville, Florida, which was the settings for many of her stories. Living on her own, at the age of fourteen, she was working for white families as a maid, and was sent to Morgan Academy in Baltimore by one of her employers (Telgen 301). With the love of learning Hurston studied at Barnard College, Howard University, and Columbia University, where she worked for her Ph.
D. in anthropology. Hurston’s first story was published in 1921, which quickly gained her recognition among writers. She was married to her first husband, Herbert Sheen, during this period, however after living together for eight months the marriage ended once her career took off and got between them.
It was in the 1930’s when Hurston’s career as a novelist picked up. In 1934, she released her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, which became a Book-of-the-Month Club selection (Telgen 301). The next year, she gained a widespread of recognition and won a Guggenheim fellowship to study folklore in the West Indies, after publishing Mules and Men (Telgen 301). Before leaving, she had a romance with a younger man, who demanded she gave up her career; choosing her career over their love she ended the affair and translated their romance into Janie and Tea Cake’s love in Their Eyes Were Watching God (Telgen 301). Hurston’s reputation was damaged in 1948, after being accused of committing an immoral act with a ten-year-old boy, causing her to fell an like an outcast in the literary community and move back to live her life in Florida (Telgen 301). After suffering a stroke in 1959, she was committed to a welfare home where she died in 1960 (Telgen 310).
Her grave location was unknown since she was buried in an unmarked grave in a segregated cemetery in Fort Pierce; that was until it was discovered by Alice Walker in 1973 (Telgen 301).