Zora Hurston’s novel Their Eyes were Watching God contains many controversial topics that were common during the period in which the book was written. Author Zora Hurston helped the reader to understand human nature and the problems of that time by illustrating these issues throughout the book. The book’s social class, racial, and gender inequalities help to convey the message that human beings are driven to happiness.
In this novel the social class of characters was indicated by their position (Slave), wealth or poverty. It was first seen when Janie’s nanny told her story of being a slave. Then, later, Janie and Joe have a relationship, Joe initially seems to be a man who is ambitious. The first time this occurs is when Janie’s Nanny introduces her story as a slave. Later, Joe has a relationship with Janie and at first he seems like a man with ambition shown. “How much did they give?” “oh ‘about fifty acres.” The reader is immediately made aware that “upper-class, middle-class and lower-class” will be a theme throughout the entire story. Joe’s desire to visit the land owner is another example of this motif in Their Eyes Watched God. Joe claims that he will buy the land right there and then. Some people lead him, while others try to call his bluff. The quote says “So Joe walked away abruptly.” He buys it and begins working on what they call their home. They were there to guide him and to be on hand when he was called. Robbins, you can’t say that you are ungrateful because Tony comes to this store every week and purchases groceries just like a normal man. The only person who does this is Mrs. Turner, because she talks about her class. Joe missed love underneath all of it. He demonstrated this by the way he treated Janie at the very end.
Race was a constant in the lives of many characters. Janie had no direct experience with race issues, but was aware of them from others. For example, Mrs.Turner said “we’ve mingled some people and now we have black and white kin.” Separating from whites and blacks. Janie argued that they were both blacks and whites. Mrs. Turner did not respond to this argument. It is clear that Janie understands the importance of race. Jaine will encounter this issue later on in the book. “De white man’s colored people are nice.” He doesn’t even know them. They are either living in a city as a hurricane destroys the old house they used to live in or used be in the ‘Glades. The city is a very different place than their home. Tea Cake, despite having money and work, is treated with suspicion by whites when he meets them. They learn quickly that having important friends who are also white doesn’t make the whites any less suspicious of them. The white community treated them suspiciously. Tea Cake had similar experiences. Tea Cake would say, “They are very particular in how these dead folks go to judgment… they act like god has no idea what the Jim Crow law is.” Tea Cake spoke this as he buried the dead. Coffins are provided for white corpses. Black corpses do not get coffins. Tea Cake said that God had been watching them. The white men were careful to make sure they did not bury black and white corpses together. Racial Segregation in that period was shown by this.
They Eyes Were watching God does not just focus on gender inequality. There are other issues that come up as well, such as discrimination. This is a common way people try to find happiness. The first time gender inequality is brought up in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Nanny describes women as having the lowest position in society: “So the white man throw down the load and tells the nigger men to pick it. He must pick it, but he doesn’t carry it. He gave it to the women in his family. Nanny wanted to give Janie a good life. Janie is going to have a hard life. Nanny is determined to achieve this goal before she passes away. She insists then that Logan (a farmer) be her husband. Zora N. Hurston establishes a precedent in her novel for the lack of equality that exists within each of her relationships or family. The first couple shows that “He is kissing yo ft and it ain’t right for a man to kiss ft long.” Mouf-kisses are on an equal basis and it’s normal, but as soon as dey bow down to the love of their lives they will straighten. Nanny told Janie Logan would change. Logan’s attitude will change. He gradually demonstrated this by asking Janie for help in the house. Logan wants Janie to feel equal, but she isn’t used being treated in this manner. Jody: “Somebody’s got to think for chickens, cows, and women.” Jody portrays his belief in male superiority throughout the entire chapter. Janie remarks that Jody has a tendency to give advice to others, and especially to her. Jody knows he shouldn’t pay attention to Janie. Janie is intelligent and he tells Janie not to assert herself.
All humans want to live a better, happier life. In Their Eyes Were watching God, Zora Hurston shows how desperate the characters are to achieve this temporary happiness, either through an equal exchange or by making others sad in order to feel happy themselves. This novel shows how people can live secret lives and achieve goals without committing adultery or enduring unfortunate circumstances.