Is "There Eyes Were Watching God" Stereotypical African-American Fiction?Do you believe this novel is a stereotypical African-American fiction? Why or why not?
No, I do not think that "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is a stereotypical work of African-American fiction. There are two major reasons for my position. The first is biographical: Hurston was influenced by anthropology, and traveled widely. This gave her fiction a philosophical distance from American culture that keeps it from stereotypes. The second reason is artistic: the book is simply lovely, and Hurston has a strong hand and her own style. These two fit together. The style fits with the anthropological perspectives, fitting the novel's structure together with its imagery almost mythically.
While Their Eyes Were Watching God is certainly not stereotypical African-American fiction, it does depict the realities of many types of blacks as Hurston saw them. Her lyrical writing, filled with poetic imagery and natural elements, is not the norm for this genre of literature. Her depiction of the entire spectrum of contemporary black culture is what got her in trouble from her peers; however, she was even-handed enough to portray all of human nature, not just the stereotypes. This is not a stereotypical novel of its genre.
Although this accusation was leveled against Zora Neale Hurston by many critics in her own time (most prominently by the writer Richard Wright, author of Native Son), I agree with the answers above. ZNH accurately depicted the lives of the characters and locations she imagined. Unfortunately, many white readers of the novel regrettably chose to see this novel as validation of these types of stereotypes. It was this fact that Wright most strongly protests and criticized ZNH for providing ample ammunition.
I completely agree with the above answer. Hurston's writing is so beautifully lyrical at points, especially concerning imagery, that it transcends any stereotypical genre.
I must agree with the two posts above me. Zora Neale Hurston's verbiage and word choice fits perfectly with this novel, she did something that no other author was really brave enough to do, and that is using her own personal style in the dialogue of this novel. She stayed true to the the personalities of all the characters by using a Southern/ slang dialect and it not only helps with the development of characters, but also helps paint a perfect picture of how life in this novel went by.