Their Eyes Were Watching God is set in the southern USA when ex-slaves were still alive, and it's about the tribulations of a black woman as she searches for self-fulfilment and love.
On reaching puberty, the story's protagonist Janie Crawford is persuaded to marry an older man by her grandmother, who had been a slave. It's not the man "Ah wants you to have, baby," says the old woman, "it's protection." Janie quickly realizes that this is not what she expects of love or life and sets out to find her own way in the world. As she says, "Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves."
There are plenty of people along the way who, for various reasons, try to persuade Janie to conform to their own expectations. Some are jealous, others proud or just mean-spirited, "there with their tongues cocked and loaded, the only real weapon left to weak folks." Janie tho' is strong and an inspiration to her best friend Pheoby, who admits, "Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus' listenin' tuh you, Janie. Ah ain't satisfied wid mahself no mo'." In the end, Zora Neale Hurston's book speaks to all women of the world and urges them be true to themselves.