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Chapter one of Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, begins with a...

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shadymccoy25 | eNoter

Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:12 AM via web

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Chapter one of Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, begins with a dramatic situation: the return of a woman with a story to tell to whomever cares to listen. What suspense does the situation arouse in your mind?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:13 AM (Answer #1)

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Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God is a kind of framed story; readers meet a woman with a story in chapter one, and the rest of the book, until the last chapter, is the story she tells. The last chapter, of course, is a return to the present with the storyteller. I get the impression from your question that this is all you know yet about this novel, so I will warn you about spoilers as necessary. 

A woman arriving back into town with a story to tell immediately creates a sense of anticipation and perhaps even suspense. The two elements which create these emotions are the idea of a return and the promise of a story. Many questions must be answered: who is she, where was she, why did she leave, why did she come back, what happened while she was gone, and how will things change with her return?

Warning: this may be a spoiler for you. The woman, Janey, arrives back into town and the reception she gets is less than welcoming. In fact, as she walks down the street they judge her without saying a word and “made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs.” Janey's friend, Pheoby, just laughs and says the women are all just mad “’cause she [Janey] didn’t stop and tell us all her business.” 

When these elements of jealousy and animosity are added to the situation, the suspense grows even greater because obviously something happened when Janey was here before. I do have to disagree with this phrase in your question: "to whomever cares to listen." As Janey walks through town, it is clear the women are jealous and that Janey has no intention of telling the women anything. This adds to the conflict and suspense of the situation. 

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