Objective: Use a feminist lens to give deeper meaning to Zora Neale Hurston's depiction of Janie and her journey in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. By understanding Janie’s journey through a feminist lens, students will be able to apply the feminist theory to other works of literature as well. This will helps students to fully understand how women were portrayed in the time period and what their assumed roles and responsibilities were.
Preparation & Materials:
Activity and Use of Instructional Time:
1. Students will carefully analyze the opening paragraphs of the novel, so they can have an initial understanding of how the author presents men and women.
a. this came be accomplished through individual work, small groups, fishbowl debate, Socratic seminar, or even a whole class discussion
2. Have students examine the first two pages of the novel in order to understand the views of men and women that are presented. Have the students describe the views of the characters: Janie vs. the people on the porch
a. furthermore, they can fill out a chart of "who's who" showing each character's mindset
By doing this students should be able to:
3. After this preliminary part of the activity, students will trace Janie’s journey according to a feminist lens.
a. They will examine her relationship with each of her husbands (Logan, Jody, Tea Cake).
I. For her first two husbands (Logan and Jody), students will find key quotes that describe what adversities she faced in that specific relationship and how she tried to overcome those difficulties and find her “natural state.” Students should find a minimum of three pieces of evidence and analyze them according to the feminist lens.
II. For her last husband, Tea Cake, students must find a minimum of three examples that show how she was at her “natural state” with him and describe how she had found her true self.
b. As students analyze her journey, they should pay attention to important motifs such as horizons. They will try to answer the question, “How have Janie’s actions in her journey allowed her to reach her horizons?”
4. To complete the assignment, students will create a poster or PowerPoint presentation which describes her journey.
Write an open response connecting Their Eyes Were Watching God to another book or short story through the feminist lens.
The response should clearly connect important elements of the feminist approach that are prevalent in Hurston’s novel and examine how, like Janie, other women have tried to break out of their societal gender role.
After this activity, students should have a strong grasp on women’s roles in history. Furthermore, students should be able to understand how women have been subjugated, but have been able to overcome hardships and break out of their roles. Students will be able to apply this approach to other texts when they are told to analyze various pieces of literature.