In literature, as in life, a reader can either be comfortable or out of place. The way one of these feelings is decided is through atmosphere. In Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston gives her readers a great deal of atmosphere. This ambiance is provided through both her narration and her dialogue, and it's not always consistent.
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dream mocked to death by time. That is the life of men. (TEWWG, 2).
The novel opens with this creative and beautiful piece of imagery. Hurston immediately sets the tone of her novel by giving the reader this flowingly metaphoric explanation of the workings of the minds of men. From the first sentence she has the reader thinking, wondering what it all means and what it tells us will come. It would have been very easy for the tale to begin like a lot of others do, by giving us a physical description of what to imagine. Instead she gives us this introduction, not so much an account of physical properties, but of emotional ones. She begins to have us think about the emotions and the minds of not what's to come, but who is to come.
Tea Cake ain't been no boy for some time. He's round thirty his ownself.
Don't keer what it was, she could stop and say a few words with us. She act like we done something to her/ She de one been doin" wrong. (TEWWG, 3).
Barely two pages after Hurston's charming introduction, she presents us with lines like these. We have been introduced to the town's people, and the mood has surely shifted with them. Hurston's use of dialect aids in this shifting of the tone. We are no longer given flowing and pretty words of the narration but choppy harsh and unintelligent banter of the people. However, even with the changing of mood, the reader is still left questioning.