Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

Scott Fenocchio
Ms. Chiapa
American Lit
2 March 2010
The Plight of Racism
In today’s world only thirteen percent of Americans consider themselves racist. Racism was a much more prevalent issue during the time of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The book takes place in Eatonville, Florida and the Everglades of Florida in the early 1900’s. All throughout the story the women known as Janie searches for love, yet encounters not love, but intolerance. This use of realism is invoked by Hurston in order to convey the plight of the black folk in the time of the Jim Crow laws.
Janie has dealt with intolerance all her life, mainly from the whites who consider themselves much better than the darker folk. The racism is shown in Janie’s childhood, when she asks “where is me? Ah don’t see me” (Hurston 9) referring to a picture in which she is surrounded by white children. The belief that she is white is cast into the dirt because of the picture and she is ridiculed because of her ignorance. “Everybody laughed” (Hurston 9) was the reaction that Janie drew from her question. The laughter may have been out of good humor or it may have been mocking, but it was still demeaning. Tea Cake also faces racism from the white folk when he is conscripted at gunpoint to bury bodies. While burying bodies Tea Cake overhears a white foreman say “Got orders from headquarters. They makin’ coffins fuh all de white folks.” And “Don’t dump no white folks in de hole jus’ so” (Hurston 171). These abhorrent beliefs show that the white people believe that they are the superior race, for a reason that borders on the ridiculous, that their skin is lighter. However, racism is not limited to people of differing skin tones.
Janie finds racism emanating from not only the white people, but surprisingly, from some people of color. The shining example of this internal racism is a woman living on the Everglades known as Mrs. Turner. One day, she lets Janie know that...