The purpose of this research essay is to help myself using writing to think more deeply about Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, particularly in its social, historical, and cultural context, taking an American studies approach.
Start by carefully reading this “prompt” (the question that is intended to stimulate your ideas): How might Zora Neale Hurston’s background and experiences with racism and sexism of her time and place have influenced her depiction of Janie?
To help respond to these questions, arm yourself with knowledge about Janie’s time and place as well as Hurston’s time and place.
Your sources need not–in fact, should not–answer the question. Rather, they should provide insights and background to help you make the points you want to make in support of your argument. You, not the support articles, should be responding to the prompt. The articles are your supporting evidence.
In the final paper, you will need to cite at least three sources, at least two of which must be from peer-reviewed, scholarly journals.
Note that your journal articles need to shed some light on Hurston’s and Janie’s time and place . They do not necessarily have to be about Janie, Hurston, or Their Eyes Were Watching God. Once you have your research question in mind, cast a wide net when looking for sources that might be helpful to you. The articles can be as general or as specific as you need. For example, you can look for articles about African American culture in the 1920s and 1930s (fairly general), or you can look for articles about Janie’s relationship with Jody, Tea Cake, or both, or Hurston’s educational background (quite specific). Take careful notes and be ready to document all of your sources.
Now, in a formal, argumentative research essay, respond to the prompt: How might Zora Neale Hurston’s background and experiences with racism and sexism of her time and place have influenced her depiction of Janie?
To do this, develop a thesis (main argument) that responds robustly the prompt. The rest of the essay will comprise your attempts to convince your reader of the veracity of your thesis, supported by your research. Assume that your audience is a smart, educated person who has read, but is not an expert on, Their Eyes Were Watching God, so you need not provide extensive plot summary. As you write, it might help to think of a smart friend of yours as your audience.