Nightwood/ Historical timeline

“…the people… they are church-broken, nation-broken — they drink and pray and piss in the one place. Every man has a house-broken heart except the great man. The people love their church and know it, as a dog knows where he was made to conform, and there he returns by his instinct.”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print.

This passage focuses on conformity and returning to such conformity when one ventures to find themselves. In Nightwood Nora knows who she must be and who she is expected to be. Her sense of conformity and feeling judged is heightened. Similarly, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen was so young and lonely. He knew he could not be what other expected but still wanted to please others. He wants attention, to be himself and if he cannot get that he almost seems as if he would rather die. Most similar to Nightwood is Untouchable. The sense of conformity and knowing your place is evident throughout this entire novel. The caste system greatly affected not only people’s lives but how they viewed themselves. How could they feel as if they had worth and value if no one else did. Their Eyes Were Watching God also focuses on a system of class and how others a viewed. Particularly African Americans in Hurston’s novel feel they must stay out of the light and feel that they are beneath others. In each novel there is at least a single character who feels as if they are stuck by the views of their family or even society. This sense of conformity is still seen as a major theme in many more current novels today.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

“When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. 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 they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937. New York: Harper Perennial, 2013.

Surprising that angels who are suppose to be innocent would be jealous of man. Also thinking that perhaps the mud has something to do with different races.

Their Eyes

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.

From the very beginning the novel sets off by introducing its main theme, that men and women are dependent on one another.  It also introduces the idea that women can make their dreams reality while men cannot do this.  The protagonist of the novel is a woman and the novel could be classified as a feminist book.

“She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over” (72).

Image shattered…absence of image, Jody demoted to an “it;” literally “objectifies;” turns him into object rather than herself.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God

“The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006).

The way Hurston shows that men can hold an image in their mind of physical entities and properties of a woman and her body, then presents a contrast of how she sees those things as “weapons against her strength”. It was a sentence that expressed, from the beginning, the gender differences between men and women that would continue throughout the rest of Hurston’s novel.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

“He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de sayso where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin’ dis place dat colored folk was buildin’ theirselves.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), 28.

Hurston gives Janie a “big voice” of sorts by letting her tenor of speech take over the narrative and describe her meeting Joe Starks. (Edit: I’m actually not sure if this specific sentence is Janie or Joe Starks; The beginning of the paragraph “sounds” like Janie, but at least to me, both of their voices seem present.) This is similar to Toomer, I think, because standard English isn’t the only language that runs the text.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Yo’ Nanny wouldn’t harm a hair uh yo’ head. She don’t want nobody else to do it neither if she kin help it. Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. Ah been prayin’ fuh it tuh be different wid you.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937. New York: Harper Perennial, 2013. p. 13

Complex ideas in simplified language. Nanny expresses a deep understanding of the social hierarchy and hers and Janie’s position on it. Nanny and Janie are below black men who are below white people. Emphasis on “seeing”: Nanny has witnessed only whites in power and black women as the mules of the world and expresses that she only knows what she sees. She’s aware that her experience is specific to the social system she and Janie are currently in and does not deny the possibility of a social system in which blacks or black women specifically have some power, further expressed in “Ah been prayin’ fuh it tuh be different wid you.”