Zora Neale Hurston wrote in the novel, “their eyes were watching god” many symbols
that contain deep meaning and relate to theme and plot. Throughout the reading of
this book, many of these symbols are recurring with different plot events. Abstract
concepts are found within studying these symbols. Some highly significant symbols
that relate to the book are the horizon, the pear tree, Janie’s hair, the hurricane,
and the mule.
The dictionary definition of a horizon is, “the line at which the earth’s surface and
the sky appear to meet”. The horizon is a long distance away from the perspective it
is looked at. In the novel, the horizon represents better things, improvement, and the
mystery of the future. Janie dreams of reeling in her horizon from the beginning of
the novel, but is limited by her circumstances. For most of her life, she dreams of this
horizon. After Tea Cake died, Janie realizes that her horizon has come in on the tide.
“She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the
world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her
soul to come and see (Hurston 193).
When Janie was sixteen, she sat under a pear tree and witnessed a moment of perfect
harmony in nature. A bee came to the pear tree blossom and collected pollen from it.
This represents Janie’s youth and sexuality. It is a relationship of passion based not on
possession and domination, but instead an effortless union of individuals. This is the
ideal relationship that Janie longs for throughout the book. She didn’t feel anything
with Logan Killicks and she left him for Joe Starks. Over time their love faded because
of his domineering attitude toward her. After she found Tea Cake, she noticed that
her dream under the pear tree was fulfilled because of the love that they shared
together. At the end of the novel, Janie reflects back to her pear tree and remembers
the connection she had with Tea Cake.
Janie’s hair is a phallic symbol that represents her own independence and identity.
When Janie was with Joe, he would make her wear her hair up because he didn’t
want anyone else to see the beauty it had. It was not right in that culture for a wife
to wear her hair down like Janie did after Joe died. It represents her defiance to
petty community standards. Janie wanted to wear her down because...