Their Eyes Were Watching God Close Reading Envelope Activity

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Close Reading Envelope Activity

Created by: Marisa Januzzi

Northern Valley Regional High School, Demarest, NJ 

Directions: Each student will be given an envelope with one of the following close reading topics on it. As you read, copy word for word significant passages onto index cards or small slips of paper and put them in the envelope.  Don’t forget

the chapter and page number(s) and speaker.

Do not share what you have chosen to include in the envelope until you are told to do so.  There will be several activities using the contents of your envelopes.  The contents and envelope topics will be used as essay prompts and test questions.  Groups

with common topics will meet as well as groups formed from different topics to share the contents of the envelopes, discuss why the passages were selected, and to articulate the effect of the quoted passage on the meaning of the work. Be sure to write

legibly enough for another classmate to read your selected passages as we will switch envelopes for activities.

Envelope 1: “’It’s uh known fact, Phoeby, yuh gottuh GO there tuh KNOW there…’” (183).  Janie’s journey is connected with her self-fashioning as a woman. Look for passages that explore the significance of Janie’s journey as such.

Envelope 2: The historical past plays a role in the present moment of the story and of its narration.  Cite examples.

Envelope 3:The familial past also plays a role in Janie’s story.  How? Cite passages showing how things that happened in one generation of a family can affect another.

Envelope 4: Look for passages that illuminate the narrator’s perspective.  Is the narrator’s voice always Janie’s, or close to Janie’s? Who speaks, and to what extent are we to understand the voice as objective?

Envelope 5: Trees and horizons are significant motifs in this story.  Choose passages that help us understand what they might represent.

Envelope 6: In studying folklore and crafting this novel, Hurston wished to preserve Black oral forms, like southern Black English itself, storytelling, playing the dozens, and signing the blues. Choose passages exemplifying the wisdom embedded in these

forms, and the reasons the book couldn’t have been written entirely in standard English.

Envelope 7:Of all the differences between and among people, which is the biggest: race, class, sex, age, or some other difference? Choose passages showing this novel’s consideration of the issue.

Envelope 8:How does racism affect people? Find passages reflecting less obvious examples of the effects of racist oppression.

Envelope 9: Why or in what sense are “their eyes watching God”?  Would you call this a religious book?  Find passages speaking to the issue.

Envelope 10: Is Janie a feminist hero, or a woman dependent on men for her wellbeing?

Envelope 11: Is Janie fed by love, or stung by it? How about Tea Cake?

Envelope 12:In an early review of THEIR EYES, Richard Wright argued that Hurston’s novel pandered to white readers:

The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought… Her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life which is "quaint," the phase which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the "superior" race.

Please choose passages to confirm or refute Wright’s argument about this book.

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