What are the writing styles used in Their Eyes Were Watching God?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Another literary device that Hurston uses in the novel is free indirect discourse. This form of discourse involves both the narrator's speech and the characters' speech or thoughts. Free indirect discourse is a common aspect of Modernist literature, which broke from the nineteenth-century convention of a strong third-person narrative voice that controlled the reader's every bit of understanding about the characters.

There are parts of the novel in which Hurston slips in and out of characters' perspectives. Though she always maintains the voice of a third-person omniscient narrator, there are moments in which she aligns directly with Janie's perspective, as if she were writing in first person. This occurs, for example, the moment Janie realizes that she's no longer in love with her husband, Joe Starks. Hurston narrates, "Something fell off the shelf inside her." Ironically, Janie is also in the store that she and her husband manage together when she has this thought. She's connecting her physical experience of arranging objects with her internal sense that someone has gone awry.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, uses two distinct writing styles in the novel.  The voice of the narrator is eloquent and poetic as it seeks to reflect on the characters' thoughts and experiences while advancing the plot.  The narrator uses much figurative language such as the description of the pear tree early in the novel to symbolize womanhood and female sexuality.  In addition to this eloquent narrative voice, Hurston also employs dialect in the characters' dialogue.  Hurston uses a strong southern local dialect to illustrate, in part, the cultural background of these characters in Florida. When they speak, the characters use colloquialisms and pronunciations common in the area.  So, Hurston employs two writing styles throughout the novel to allow her to develop plot, theme, and character.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial