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Mythology In Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

1118 words - 4 pages

Mythology is a key part of many of Zora Neale Hurston’s short stories and novels. She researched the stories of her home town and many other areas of the world. Hurston used this knowledge of myths and stories to help her carry them on to later generations in a form that almost everybody could relate to. Through out all of Zora Neale Hurston’s stories, mythology has been a crucial keystone. Her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, has been influenced by three different ancient myths: the myths of Ezili Freda, Osiris and Isis, and Aphrodite and Adonis.
Janie’s love for nature and turbulent relationships comes from the myth of the Haitian Goddess of love, Ezili Freda. In the novel the main character, Janie, is deeply interested in love and sexual energy in nature. Such is shown when Janie is sitting under a pear tree and just examining the beauty before her eyes. Throughout most of the story Janie has less than perfect relationships with men. Janie’s loathed her first three husbands and had to eventually kill her fourth one. The Haitian Goddess of love, Ezili Freda, has these exact same characteristics (Collins). Freda was the Goddess of love and was very sexual and flirtatious, but as with the fate of Janie, Freda would always fail to find one man that would be able to spend life with. It’s clear, with the similarities presented, that Hurston based the character Janie on Ezili Freda. Even when Freda was able to find someone that was right for her it was destined to be tragic. This is just like when Janie finally met Tea Cake but in the end had to kill him. Both had finally found love but due to their unfortunate fates both were destined to lose them.

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Not only does Janie parallel Freda, her character can be seen to have been inspired by the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis. In the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis the two of them fall in love. But this relationship is cut short by Adonis getting attacked and castrated by a wild boar (Stine). Later, Adonis bled to death (Stine). After her first three husbands Janie finally found a man she could be with, Tea Cake. And going along with the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis, Janie must stand by and watch as Tea Cake is attacked by an animal which in Hurston’s story was a dog. She ends up having to kill him and watch him die as did Aphrodite with Adonis.
One of the largest mythological influences on Their Eyes Were Watching God is the myth of Isis and Osiris. Ishtar is a goddess associated with love and was very callous with the men that she loved. (Pondrom 181). Ishtar fell in love with a God by the name of Tammuz and eventually ended up being responsible for his death (Pondrom 181). She descended into the underworld and was successful in bringing him back and she lived at peace (Pondrom 181). We see strong parallels to this myth in Their Eyes Were Watching God. After multiple loveless relationships Janie fell in love with Tea Cake. She eventually had to kill him because he had rabies. Later, she was...

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