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ENC1101 Hobson Marvin Pruitt: Articles

Literary Criticism vs. Book Reviews

You are probably familiar with book reviews. Book reviews are usually a small paragraph in a newspaper or magazine that comments on a book. Book reviews are written for everyone, click here to see one from The New York Times.

Literary criticism is a longer, in-depth analysis about an author, a literary work, or even a single character, theme, or occurence in a literary work. When searching for research to write a paper in a college level literature class, you NEED to use literary criticism, click here to see an example from the Journal of International Social Research.

The databases will offer both, be aware of the information you are seeing.

When to Use Databases

Databases contain online versions of newspapers, magazines, journals, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and book chapters. Since you access databases online, many people think they are websites. They are NOT websites.You must login to gain access to databases because they are proprietary resources leased for use by IRSC students and employees. 

When searching databases, you can be more specific with your keywords for a more precise list of results. You can search within the title, abstract, or full text of the item. The hardest part of searching databases is knowing which one to choose. The IRSC list of databases offers brief information about each resource. You can also search for databases by subject to help you more easily select appropriate databases. 

Suggested Databases

Try these online databases to find literary criticisms, peer-reviewed articles, and other scholarly information about your author and novel.

Remember to choose FULL TEXT, if available.

Database Login for Students

To get to the databases, start at

Click Libraries on the bottom left

Click Find Articles

Click Databases by Subject

Login to the databases.

The database login screen looks like this.

Your Borrower ID is your student ID.

Your PIN is your 4-digit birthdate (MMDD).

This is an image showing the log in screen for the library databases. The college should show Indian River State College. The Borrower ID is your student ID number. The PIN or Password is the month and day of your birthdate.

Students, choose a database below to find literary criticism.

Themes in "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Arts, Humanities, Communication & Design: Story Telling, Orality, Black Vernacular, Creolization, African-American and African Diasporic Art, Southern Foodways/Cuisine, Religion, Christianity, Harlem Renaissance, Women’s Suffrage Movement, Black Women’s Movement

Business:Independent/Black Townships Post-Civil War, Minority Entrepreneurship, Women in Business, Sharecropping, Lumber Camps, Economics of Slavery, The Great Northern Migration, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Education:Segregation, Ebonics in the classroom, Language, Literacy, History, Sex Education, Colonialism/Postcolonialism, West African Traditions, Caribbean Traditions

Health Sciences:Public Health, Rabies, Water-borne Diseases, Nutrition, Mortality, Sex Education and Health

Industry, Manufacturing & Construction:20th Century Southern Architecture, 20th Century Southern Infrastructure, 20th Century Water Treatment

Public Safety, Fire Science & Law: Hurricane Preparedness, Emergency Preparedness, Jim Crow South & Post-Reconstruction Laws, Convict Lease, Lynching Laws, Poll Taxes, Literacy Tests, and Separate But Equal

Social Sciences, Human Services, Government: Marriage, Domestic Violence, Politics, Leadership, Religion, Ethics, Rape, Morality, Christianity, Children of Immigrants, Child Development and Behavior

STEM:Hurricane of 1928, Hurricane Preparedness/Aftermath, Hurricanes and the Environment

Essay Topics

Below are some of the topic suggestions for your essay. You can often use your topics to come up with keywords to use when searching the databases.

Citing from the text, write a 3-5 page essay that answers one of the following prompts.

1. One of the universal themes of literature is the idea that children suffer because of the mistakes of an earlier generation. Examine the development of this theme in Their Eyes Were Watching God by analyzing the story that Nanny tells about her life (pages 14-20). Discuss Nanny’s interactions with white men and women. How did growing up in slavery impact her worldview? How has her past impacted her relationship with her daughter and granddaughter?

2. Compare the novel to its film adaptation. What aspects of the novel do you think the film handled well? What criticisms do you have of the film?

3. On page 9, Janie says, “Dey all uster call me Alphabet ‘cause so many people had none named me different names.” Examine the use of names in the novel. What do the character’s names reveal about identity? How do names reflect a character’s culture, socioeconomic position, and/or personality? Pay particular attention to characters that are called more than one name throughout the novel.

4. The novel contains several scenes with men talking in an exaggerated and humorous way about women. Examine these scenes (pages 36; 67-69) and explain what they reveal about the cultural context of male and female roles.

5. Consider Janie’s description of the day she realized that she was not white (pages 8-9) and compare this description to Zora Neal Hurston’s essay, “How It Feels to be Colored Me.” In both texts, the speaker’s explanation of her awareness of race refers to more than an awareness of skin tone. What does Hurston mean when she writes about “realizing she was colored”? What does Janie become aware of when she views the photo? How would you describe Hurston’s view of racial identity?

6. How does the title Their Eyes Were Watching God capture some of the main themes of the book? How do the concepts of God, faith, destiny, or sight tie into the plot?

7. In what ways could Janie be read as feminist? Conversely, what weaknesses or flaws might a feminist see in her?

8. Consider the important scene of young Janie underneath the pear tree. Why do you think Janie is so fascinated by the action between the bee and the blossom? What components of this scene (plants, animals, sexual union, love) recur in the novel and where do they repeat? What do you think these things come to symbolize?

9. How does Janie define love? Does her conception of love develop from her sixteen-year old obsession with the bee and the pear blossom? What specific things does Janie learn do NOT comprise love? All of the men Janie marry exhibit jealousy in one form or another. Yet why does Janie tolerate it in Tea Cake and not the others?

10. Hurston alternates between Standard English and the phonetically transcribed vernacular of Southern black culture. Why does she use both instead of sticking to one or the other? How does the switching between the two styles of language affect the narration and tone of the story?

11. How do the motifs of speech and silence interact? To what extent are the problems in Janie’s marriages caused by a stifling of her voice (especially in her marriage with Joe)?

12. Is Hurston’s message on racial inequality (if any) compromised by the fact that her protagonist is only one-quarter black? Much of Janie’s good luck comes specifically because of her white features so does this invalidate her identity as an African-American? (Remember that Janie thought she was white until she saw herself in a photograph.) In a similar vein, how are Mrs. and Mr. Turner products of racism?