Literature Analysis

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

According to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie, who is the main character, is a black beautiful woman (Hurston, 2000). Apart from her straight hair, which results from her mixed ancestry, Janie is independent, confident, and mature. Her maturity rests on the fact that she understands that other people’s cruelty towards her results from their limited perspective and upbringing. Janie’s strength may partially be attributed to her cruel background. Long before she was born, her grandmother, Nanny Crawford, was a slave of a white master who raped her. The sexual assault resulted to the birth of Janie’s mother, Leafy (Hurston, 2000). The incident made Nanny to run away from her white master, as the master’s wife would be very harsh towards her for sleeping with her husband. Similarly, a schoolteacher sexually assaulted Leafy when she was seventeen. The rape incident consequently led to the birth of Janie. After giving birth, Janie’s mother run away and became an alcoholic. Out of what had become of men and women in the slave era, Janie’s grandmother had come to value security and wealth. She, therefore, forced Janie to marry a wealthy person at a very young age. Hurston’s work illustrates that apart from physical appearance, a person’s character also portrays their beauty.

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Janie is depicted as a woman of adorable beauty. According to Hurston (2000), men would not seize admiring Janie’s long hair that swung to her waist, her firm buttocks, and pugnacious breasts that appeared to bore holes on her shirt. Janie’s beauty was enhanced by her slim and tall woman figure. Janie was adorable as she was a woman who had faced so much pain in her past that she had come to overcome fear, scorns, and malice. In her work, Zora Neale Hurston starts by saying that it is every man’s dream to board a ship after noticing it from a distance (Hurston, 2000). According to Hurston, for some people, their ships are luckily brought to shore by the waves. For others, the ship sail in the horizon forever, an occurrence that lead to resignation. The author uses the illustration to depict the life of men. On the other hand, Hurston states that for things they would not like to remember, women chose to forget about them. In the case of Janie, she had chosen to forget all the evils that had happened to her life such as the rapes of her grandmother and mother. She chooses to be independent, courageous and defiant (Hurston, 2000). 

As much as the author makes us believe that Janie’s beauty emanates from her physical features, as men admire them, I tend to think on the contrary. To begin with, I do not dispute the fact that Janie is physically beautiful. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that most of her beauty results from her confidence and independent nature. In my view, independence and confidence are virtues that relate to beauty. I also believe that Hurston failed to give details of Janie’s physical beauty for she wanted to point out the issue of women and identity. Janie possesses high ability to make personal decisions on her life despite several shortcomings (Hurston, 2000). For instance, after being forced by her granny to marry Logan Killicks, she later makes a decision to leave him since she does not love him. After the break up, Janie marries Joe Starks and later Tea Cake Woods who all die in the marriage (Hurston, 2000). Despite having to lose the two husbands through death, Janie does not give up in life. Hurston and Janie’s narrative tones are tightly interwoven for the reader to discern the author and the narrator.

Such a Boat of Land by Lamont B. Steptoe

Lamont B. Steptoe is a Vietnam veteran and an African-American poet who lives in Pennsylvania. Most of Lamont’s works address issues of warfare, violence, and race-inequality. According to his 1998 interview with Jordan Greene, Lamont considers his poetry as consciously activist. Such a Boat of Land fits in the issues of social racism and activist. In the poem, Lamont reflects on physical and metaphorical geography within a scene of travel and movement. For instance, in the poem, the phrase ‘boat of land moved by sails of sky’ illustrates the Pennsylvanian farmland that is inhabited by Amish people In (Gillan, 1994). The author also refers to the violence of the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh by the use of the phrase ‘talk at night’. For the people living in the two cities, Pennsylvania, which is described as ‘woodsy, farmed’ is a far unreachable place. It is described as ‘other country’ and ‘the stuff of dreams’, and can only are seen via ‘Amtrak window’ (Gillan, 1994). For the people living in the cities, especially in Spicvilles, Gookvilles, and Niggervilles, there are no horizons, and therefore not ‘such a boat’. It is therefore, loud, tight, and violent place. The author refers to the cities as rivers of blood and closets (Gillan, 1994). In the face of despair that is prevalent in the cities, the author addresses the issues that are met by the residents and how to explain them. 

One of the most significant aspects of style in the poem is the use of a naturalistic language. By using the example of rural areas of Pennsylvania, the poet tries to explain that the challenges facing the residents are too massive to be offered simple solutions and answers (Gillan, 1994). The other style used in the poem is the use of metaphor. For instance, the meaning of the falling and rising of tides on beaches of time, and ‘matching feet of protestors and soldiers’ cannot be understood. This may imply that the problems or issues are too large and sophisticated to solve. 

Fences by August Wilson

August Wilson’s Fences is a play on an African American family that is surrounded by conflict. The head of household and the main character is a man by the name Troy Maxson (Wilson, 1988). The conflicts that arise are between Troy’s son Cory, his wife Rose, his friend Bono, and his son Lyons. Each conflict forms the structure of the external and internal conflict experienced by each character and the Maxson family as a whole (Wilson, 1988). Apart from the family unit that is developed from a marriage relationship between two people, the family unit that I intend to define in this analysis is the union between people who have many things in common and who are faced by the same challenges in life. 

The Fences Play shows the harsh treatment and reality that was faced by African American at the time (Wilson, 1988). For instance, there were African Americans who were very talented in different aspects of life but remained in bad situations as they were discriminated against due to the color of their skins. The Maxson family can be used as a good example. For instance, when Troy was a young boy, he was very talented at playing baseball but would not be offered a chance to participate in major leagues for he was black.

 The family unit that the author of the play focuses on is that of the African Americans (Wilson, 1988). Despite the conflict that is experienced between Troy and Cory, Rose, Bono, and his son Lyons, all the disputes are overcome by togetherness that result from being family (Wilson, 1988). All African American characters in the play have many things in common such as the fact that they are all black. Secondly, they are all faced by similar challenges such as discrimination. After realizing that they all belong to the same family, they make efforts to resolve their disputes internally. Fence symbolizes the cat of giving structure to a family, keeping close, and holding the family together. 


Hurston, Z. N. (2000). Their eyes were watching God: Mules and men. New York: Caedmon Audio.

In Gillan, J. (1994). Unsettling America: An anthology of contemporary multicultural poetry. New York: Penguin BooksWilson, A. (1988). Fences. London: Penguin Books.

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