Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Katherine Cochran

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Sherita Johnson

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Monika Gehlewat

Committee Member 3 School



This paper attempts to convey the importance of the hurricane symbol in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. In both novels, the authors use the imagery of setting combined with the characterization of poor women of color in order to emphasize both the effects of environmental disaster on vulnerable communities and also the inherent power of their protagonists to overcome systemic racism combined with natural disaster. The climax of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel revolves around the deadly 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane in Florida, and the rising action of Jesmyn Ward’s novel peaks when Hurricane Katrina hits the fictional town of Bois Sauvage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hurston and Ward demonstrate with historical accuracy how powerful these two similar hurricanes were on the low-lying communities that were ravaged in their path. The backdrop Their Eyes Were Watching God paints a clear picture of racist practices common in America in the 1920s and sadly, Salvage the Bones shows that similar racist practices are common even in 2005. The two motherless protagonists of these novels evolve both despite and because of very similar deadly hurricanes and very similar acts of oppression. Moreover, this paper argues that the hurricanes birth in these two women new and stronger identities defying the prejudices they face as minority women from the South.