Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, Vodou


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority

Document Type

Critical Essay (Special Topic)




Written in Haiti but set in Florida, Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God makes rich use of Haitian religious traditions to empower African American women. Vodou, the religion of the slaves, was both a religious act and a political one in Haiti. African slaves continued to find power in the evocation of their gods to defy the colonial powers. Hurston taps into the subverted powers of the Vodou pantheon and rituals to speak to her American audience, linking the physical rebellions of the earthly world with the spiritual world. One voice of Hurston's double narrative speaks to those who are unaware of Vodou imagery, and one for those who are. Several scholars have noted Janie’s connection to the Haitian goddess of love, Erzulie. This paper seeks to expand the scope of the Vodou connections to retell the story on a mythological level. This layered reading resolves many of the curiosities in the text and, through the power of the Cosmic Zora’s words, evokes not a Vodou curse, but rather a healing cure for America’s racial wounds.