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Their Eyes Were Watching God, Written By Zora Neale Hurston

1785 words - 7 pages

Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston, is a novel about Janie Crawford, a “light” african american woman living in the 1930’s. Janie’s life is chronicled as she tells her friend her story: a pear tree, a dead mule, three marriages, and a hurricane later the reader and the listener, Phoeby, feels they had “‘done growed ten feet higher from jus’ listenin’’” (192) to her story. However, overall Hurston wants the reader to understand that they have to find out about living for themselves by following their own expectations and not the expectations of others for them. The use of the stylistic elements: symbolism, motif, and imagery enhances the message of this novel about finding one’s self amidst a world where everyone has their own opinion, whether or not its for for other’s benefit.
Hurston in the novel uses symbolism in clothing to represent parts of Janie’s life. In the beginning, Janie tries to live life as her grandmother, Nanny, wished her to. She marries Logan Killicks because Nanny wants her to live happily and without work. However, Janie is unhappy in this and ends up running off with Joe (Jody) Starks to marry him thinking she’d be happier. An apron is used to symbolize the life Janie had with Logan, but an apron is also a symbolism of servitude, so when Janie is leaving Logan she, “untied (the apron) and flung it on a low bush beside the road and walked on,” (32). This deliberate act symbolizes Janie leaving Logan and the indenturement to him as his wife. In the next phase of Janie’s life, she is still, inadvertently, living by Nanny’s expectations in life, as well as now living by Joe’s expectations. Joe has Janie on a high stoop above the rest of the townswomen, so she is fairly lonely, as well as having Janie covering her hair with a head rag while working in his store out of jealousy of other men looking and touching it. The head rag is symbolic of Janie’s life with Joe as well as servitude again too. When Joe dies, Janie feels like she’s been freed and the night of his funeral she, “burnt up every one of her head rags,” (89). The burning of the head rags has the same effect as the removing of the apron had when Janie had moved past the part of her life with Logan. Nine months later, Virgible Woods, better known as Tea Cake, enters Janie’s life and soon after they are married and head down to “the muck” of the everglades. During this time, Janie gets into the habit of wearing overalls. Janie is much happier with life here and so the symbolism associated with the overalls is the happiness Janie has for following her own wishes, as opposed to the wishes of Nanny or anyone else, because Tea Cake does not force the overalls on Janie. While Tea Cake did ask Janie to work with him in the muck, he did not do it in a fashion as Joe and Logan had. In fact, Janie likes working in the muck, on page 133 Janie tells Tea Cake, “Ah laks it. Its mo’ nicer than settin’ around dese quarters all day.” The use of symbolism...

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