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Freedom Through The Pursuit Of Dreams In Their Eyes Were Watching God

4023 words - 16 pages

Freedom Through the Pursuit of Dreams in Their Eyes Were Watching God


     After the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, the ex-slaves could not find enough good work to earn a living. Jim Crow laws were installed to push blacks further away from reaching their dreams. These laws were enforced after Plessy v. Ferguson conviction that blacks and whites could have everything "separate but equal." This included schools, transportation, drinking fountains, bathrooms and more. By 1914 all towns were split down the middle with the blacks on one side and whites on the other (Hoobler 51). The Homestead Act was established in 1866 to help blacks grow in their society. Many bought their own farms or went North and learned to linotype or held other professions such as shoemaking (Hoobler 51). With the movement of blacks to the North came the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance, a black movement in New York in which blacks began to more freely express themselves and their ideas (Rood 38). In illustrating gender roles and the class structure of a black society, author Zora Neale Hurston portrays the changing black society in her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God through characters that follow their dreams, which helps them take possession of their own lives.

The role of women in a black society is a major theme of this novel. Many women help demonstrate Hurston's ideas. Hurston uses Janie's grandmother, Nanny, to show one extreme of women in a black society, the women who follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. Nanny is stuck in the past. She still believes in all the things that used to be, and wants to keep things the way they were, but also desires a better life for her granddaughter than she had. When Nanny catches Janie kissing a "trashy n-----, breath-and-britches" young man whom she says will be "usin' [Janie's] body to wipe his foots on" (Hurston 12), she immediately marries Janie off to Logan Killicks, a wealthy farmer in the town. Janie doesn't love Logan, but that doesn't matter to Nanny, as long as her grandchild is protected. When Janie comes to tell her grandmother that she still doesn't love Logan after three months of marriage, Nanny says, "you come heah wid yo' mouf full uh foolishness on uh busy day. Heah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo' bawn days, and big protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call you Mis' Killicks, and you come worryin' me 'bout love" (Hurston 22) Nanny doesn't care whether or not Janie's in love, so long as she doesn't have to worry about her financial situation. The main goal of the ex-slaves was to be able to survive in the world, and that meant money to pay for their survival. Many of them either stayed with their old masters, bought farms of their own, or moved N orth in pursuit of other vocations (Hoobler 51). Nanny wanted Janie to be able to survive in her community. She tells Janie that "De n----- woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah kin see. Ah been prayin'...

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