In Their Eyes Were Watching God (which is a fantastic book that is also [shameless plug] a proposed topic challenge), there's a strange scene on pages 61-62 where several vultures (a type of bird) start talking:

He finally lit on the ground and walked around the body to see if it were really dead. Peered into its nose and mouth Examined it well from end to end and leaped upon it and bowed, and the others danced a response. Tat being over, he balanced and asked:

"What killed this man?"

The chorus answered, "Bare, bare fat."


So he picked out the eyes in the ceremonial way and the feast went on The yaller mule was gone from the town except for the porch talk, and for the children visiting his bleaching bones now and then in the spirit of adventure.

It's strange because, I think aside from possibly one other scene in the beginning of the book, it's the only time animals speak in the book. And as far as I can tell this isn't a particular theme of the book. So what's the point of including a page long scene where animals speak?

1 Answer 1


Hurston references birds multiple times throughout the books, and she mentions "Buzzards" in particular twice. Both times Buzzards are mentioned are after deaths, in chapter 5 and chapter 18. These two references both in a way compare flying birds to humans, and both times, even though the Buzzards are supposed to be disgusting carnivorous creatures the Buzzards are kinder and smarter.

The first reference to birds, the one you mentioned, the birds are holding a funeral, this is contrasting with the funeral held by Stark. In Stark's funeral for the dead mule, he makes fun of the mule and turns a funeral into a way to get more popularity among the townspeople. However at the buzzard's funeral, they respected the dead, they chanted,

"Who'll stand his funeral"

Hurston is letting the Buzzards speak because she wants to show how both Joe Starks, and her society are not as good as they think they are.

In "Their Eyes Were Watching God" Hurston makes the connection between the mocking and abuse women receive and the mocking and abuse mules receive. That combined with this scene makes the mistreatment of women seem an even more apparent theme in the book, and could also be why she included the talking buzzards.

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