No Matter How Far a Person Can Go the Horizon Is Still Way Beyond You

Zora Neale Hurston? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Futurists use the horizon metaphorically to help explain the limits of prediction. As one approaches the horizon, more of the world becomes visible, but there are always vast regions that remain invisible because they are beyond the horizon. I think the Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston employed the ever receding horizon figuratively in one of her novels. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 work “Their Eyes Were Watching God” included the following discussion of the character Nanny. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But Nanny belonged to that other kind that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon—for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you—and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Hurston referred to the horizon several times in her multi-threaded narrative. The final lines of her novel presented the thoughts of the character Janie envisioning a contractible horizon: 2

Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.

The quotation under examination was included in the 1993 compilation “My Soul Looks Back” assembled by Dorothy Winbush Riley: 3

No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you.
ZORA NEALE HURSTON, Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937

The 1999 collection “What Now?: Words of Wisdom for Life after Graduation” by Jennifer Leigh Selig included an entry with the quotation ascribed to Hurston. 4

The quotation and ascription also appeared in the 2006 compilation “Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing”. 5

In conclusion, Zora Neale Hurston should receive credit for the passage she wrote in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” in 1937.

Image Notes: Illustration of the partially visible sun illuminating the edge of planet Earth from Arek Socha at Pixabay.

Notes:

  1. 1978 (Copyright 1937), Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston, Chapter 9, Quote Page 138, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1978 (Copyright 1937), Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston, Chapter 20, Quote Page 286, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1993, My Soul Looks Back, ‘Less I Forget: A Collection of Quotations by People of Color, Edited by Dorothy Winbush Riley, Topic: Ambition, Quote Page 13, HarperCollins Publishers. New York. (Verified on paper)
  4. 1999 Copyright, What Now?: Words of Wisdom for Life after Graduation by Jennifer Leigh Selig, Section: Reaching for the Stars, Quote Page 241, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, Missouri. (Verified with scans)
  5. 2006, Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing, Compiled and Edited by Larry Chang, Topic: Exploration, Quote Page 288, Column 1, Gnosophia Publishers, Washington, D.C. (Verified with scans)