Sophomore year of college was when I finally got serious about learning. For one thing, I wasn’t wearing rose-colored glasses anymore, and for another, my interests were diversifying beyond where to use my fake I.D. next. Also, I got over the hurdle of that pesky .33 GPA that miraculously showed up on my report card at the end of my freshman year. Apparently, studying was a thing.
One of the significant ways I grew was due to my exposure to some incredible literature. Like, truly great books. I read my first Jane Austen (yes, it took me that long to get to her). Soon after, Charlotte Bronte, Henry David Thoreau, and F. Scott Fitzgerald came roaring into my mind. As did Zora Neale Hurston.
Their Eyes Were Watching God sowed seeds in my heart.
As a Floridian, Hurston tapped into the familiar for this girl. She also introduced me to dialogue. And dialect within dialogue.
The closest I’d come to that was in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. And I didn’t have much use for the whippersnapper that was Huck.
But Janie? Now there was a woman who had thoughts I could identify with. While her beauty, as described by Hurston, was foreign to me, her desires weren’t.
I think I actually identified with a character for the first time while reading Their Eyes Were Watching God.
The following quote? It’s one of those that resonates soul deep.
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.”
Even at the ripe old age of nineteen, I had the awareness that dreams could be elusive.
And this book…well, my eyes are still watching for an author that spins a story using dialect and dialogue as powerfully as she did.