Zora Neale Hurston, while living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was researching voodoo on the most scholarly level. She was studying with Haiti’s most well known hougans and mambos, or priests and priestesses. At this time she was gathering knowledge about voodoo so she could write the text, Tell My Horse. Also, at this same time Hurston had finished writing, Their Eyes Were Watching God in only seven short weeks. A close reading of this novel provides the reader with a relationship between voodoo and the text. Hurston not only explores female spirituality and sexuality in, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but weaves the two together revealing that voodoo culture plays an important role within the novel especially in the comparisons between the voodoo goddess Erzulie and the texts main character Janie Crawford.
Hurston exploits the society in which Janie Crawford lives in. Hers is a society in which she is not allowed to live freely and express herself freely. She is suppressed in her society because she is a woman and because she is African-American. Hurston understands this oppression and she uncovers the truth on the status of black females at this time. There were no powerful roles available to them in their American culture or in their African-American culture. Women were looked down on and they were not seen as potentially strong spiritual and sexual
people. Hurston opens the door for her protagonist, Janie Crawford, to create a more substantial and empowering life for herself after the many hardships she faces. She leads her down a path to self-determination and this path is embodied by the spirituality of voodoo. “The old, old mysticism of the world in African terms...a religion of creation and life” (Tell My Horse 376).This is how Hurston describes the voodoo religion. Janie Crawford explores this as she begins to create a new life for herself. A life in which she is self-sufficient and a very powerful and strong woman.
Janie Crawford first starts to discover her strength as she finds her voice against the men in her life. She first moves in with Logan Killicks, only at the discretion of her grandmother. He is much older than her and she is absolutely unhappy. He treats her like a mule and she quickly turns to Joe Starks for new love. After running off with Joe, she learns that her “love at first sight” was false. Although their life seems to be successful on the surface, deep down Joe is possessive and controlling. Joe is the mayor and thinks that Janie is above the common people of the town. He does not allow her to interact with her fellow townspeople in which she desperately wishes she could. He never admits to Janie that he is mostly jealous of how the other men look at her and her intense beauty. “Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about...