What does the Hurston of Their Eyes Were Watching God bring to the American novel?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It's hard to move past the fact that Hurston's work details a vivid and intensely complex portrait of people of color.  This is what her work brings to the construction of the American novel.  The characters in her narrative are rich and vibrant.  They react to multiple forces that help to carve out their identity and sense of self.  Janie's voyage of self- discovery is one in which an African- American heroine examines issues of race, class, gender, and psychology in the formation of her character.  At a time when many depictions of African- Americans were stilted and limited, Hurston's contributions seek to broaden what it means to be Black in America.  At the same time, Hurston's novel helps to expand the American novel.  No longer would the "American novel" encompass only one vision of what it means to be America. Hurston's contribution ensures that the lens of what it means to be American and what the American novel is to represent would be seen through multiple frames of reference.  In this establishment of multivocality in something that was singular in focus, one can see Hurston's contributions as significant to what constitutes the American novel.