Discuss Identity In Nella Larsen's "Quicksand" And "Passing", And Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

2218 words - 9 pages

A good friend once said that "life is full of twists." Life has ways of building and breaking a person. Each individual in this world learns and approaches life differently. One person may learn from the mistakes of others, while another person may learn from personal experiences. When life becomes difficult and feels unbearable, these challenges serve a purpose. Tribulations can be used to bring life to a person's character or construct their identity. In Zora Neale Huston's, "Their Eyes Were Watching God", and Nella Larsen's "Passing", the role of inner-fulfillment becomes the focus for the characters. As some of the characters face problems in their oppressed society, the understanding of accepting self and others, becomes important parts of finding true identity.

In "Their Eyes were Watching God', Janie's path towards finding her identity begins with as a young girl having no knowledge of her own race to becoming a woman with the strength of sharks, recognizing her true self. Only that strength, allows her to return to her hometown to drown out all criticism and revel in her miseries. From the novel, the character's pattern proves that achieving fulfillment may require a person to ignore society's crude classifications and focus on their personal desires; while firmly avoiding selfishness. Janie, moving from different abusive relationships to a relationship that allows her to express her thoughts and dreams, is evidence of this idea.

From the opening of the novel, Janie returns to her hometown wealthy and self-confident. The town people immediately begin to gossip about her affair with Tea Cake. They are very curious about Janie because she returned to the town with poor clothes. One of the people says "She act like we done done something to her. She do one been doin' wrong" (Hurston 3). From her journey, she learns to slough off criticism from those who waste "up too much time puttin' they mouf on things they don't know nothing about" (Hurston 6). However Janie was not always sure about herself and even her identity. As a child she was called '"Alphabet' cause so many people had done named me different names" (Hurston 9). During her childhood, she does not know she is black until a man takes a picture of all the children together. In that moment, Janie realizes she is darker than all of the other children: "So when we looked at de picture and everybody got pointed out there wasn't nobody left except a real dark little girl with long hair standing by Eleanor" (Hurston 9).

As a teenager, Janie becomes very curious about sexuality. At the age of sixteen, Janie spends an afternoon under the blossoming pear tree in Nanny's backyard. Her sexual awakening is expressed when "She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her" (Hurston 11). She eagerly wonders when she is going to feel the joy of...

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