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Their Eyes Were Watching God Thematic Essay
1. Choose an essay topic. Think about the topics discussed in class or refer to the questions below.
2. Essay should be at least 2 pages in length.
3. At least 2 sources, including the novel, must be quoted and cited in the essay. (Novel
and one outside source)
4. Must have in-text citations & a MLA Works Cited page.
a. Refer to Owl Purdue for proper MLA guidelines.
b. Owl Purdue
5. Follow all TIQA guidelines.
6. Submit a final copy to turnitin.com on the due date by 3:00 PM
7. NO LATE SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED!!
Questions About Gender
1. What are traditional stereotypes of men and women in this novel? In what ways does Janie fit the typical feminine stereotype?
2. In what ways does Janie violate typical gender boundaries? How could some of her words or actions be seen as masculine? How might men view this as a threat?
Questions About Race
1. Is Their Eyes Were Watching God primarily an anti-racism novel? Is racism a central issue? 2. How does Janie’s identity vacillate between white and black factions? Consider her appearance, her bloodline, and her behavior (or others’ perception of her behavior).
Questions About Fate and Free Will
1. To what extent is Janie’s life already determined at birth? Consider factors outside her control such as her gender, race, bloodline, and appearance.
2. Joe is the most ambitious character in the novel, determined to take his destiny into his own hands. How does he assert his will in Eatonville? On Janie? Does Joe succeed in achieving his goals? What does he gain and lose along the way?
3. God’s judgment on man is depicted through the fury of the hurricane. What does this say about the way man should live his life? Does heaven seem to condone either Joe’s obsessive ambition or Tea Cake’s casual come-what-may attitude?
Questions About Society and Class
1. How is race generally linked to class? Do white people occupy a higher class than black people? Which characters provide exceptions to the general rule?
2. How did slaves’ positions as a sub-class, those not considered human at all, affect Nanny’s outlook on life? To what social class does she aspire to be included in? What are the defining characteristics of this class? How does she impose this perspective on Janie?
3. Why is Janie happy living with the lowest of the low social classes – the migrant workers in the Everglades? What do they have that the higher social classes lack?
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
1. Why does Janie feel so trapped in her first two marriages? What aspects of Janie’s character do Logan and Joe suppress? After Joe’s death, how does Janie define freedom?
2. Does Tea Cake free Janie or is it just the escape from her first two husbands? If it is Tea Cake, how does he release Janie from confinement?
3. How is death associated with freedom, especially in Janie’s last two marriages?
Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans
1. How does Janie’s experience under the pear tree set up her dreams and expectations for the future? How might she be characterized as naïve or idealistic at this stage in her life?
2. Janie mentions the “deaths” of her dreams several times in the novel. What does she mean by this? And how do the deaths of these dreams modify her opinion of men and her expectations for the future?
3. How do Janie’s visions and hopes for her future differ from the hopes of her peers? Why does she have such different goals for her future than other characters?
Thematic Essay Rubric
lead, background information, thesis (intro) /5
MLA format /5
TIQA /10
sentence structure, grammar, punctuation /10
parenthetical citations, works cited page /10

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