Essay, Research Paper: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Literature: Their Eyes Were Watching God

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How far can you see? Way, way off in the distance? But there is one sight always
at the end of your vision: the horizon. Doesn’t matter how far North, South,
East, or West you go you are never going to get past the horizon. In the book
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, a lady named Janie searches
for self and her place in the world. Throughout the book the concept of the
horizon comes up, both figuratively and metaphorically. The horizon represents
the ultimate goal, never to be reached, it contains everything we ever wanted,
only some of which we can receive. The horizon symbolizes what people want and
the ships on it symbolize our individual hopes and dreams. Hurston opens her
book with the following paragraphs: Ships at a distance have every man’s wish
on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sale forever on
the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes
away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of
men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and
remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then
they act and do things accordingly. (p.1) Here is the first instance of the
horizon in the text. Although the narrator is unclear at this point there is
still a definite voice talking. This voice seems to be the ultimate voice of
reason and only pops up periodically in the story. The message is a little
easier to discern. The ships represent hopes and dreams in the story, where the
horizon is the ultimate goal, never to be reached. "That is the life of
men." Men concentrate solely on the dreams themselves, never satisfied
until they have accomplished whatever it is the goal which they have set out to
reach. Women, however, know that it is not where you end up, but what you gain
from the journey, that counts. The women can live without the fulfillment of
their dreams as long as they gained something trying to get there. Another quote
comes when Janie has just come to grips with the fact that marriage doesn’t
cause people to fall in love. Our "narrator" states, "Janie’s
first dream was dead, so she became a woman." (p.24) This quote goes along
with the previous one. Janie became a woman, a person willing to except the loss
of a dream and move on, knowing that something was gained in the process. The
"horizon" claimed one of Janie’s dreams, she would never be able to
reach it. The horizon represents dreams, goals and hopes, but how does one reach
it? Janie decides that the only way for her to reach her goals is to go out and
experience life. Janie talks to Pheoby about her ideas for her future. Janie
states, "Dis ain’t no business proposition, and no race after property
and titles. Dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandma’s way, now Ah means tuh
live mine." Janie’s grandmother represents the voice of society, wanting
her to be prim and proper. Janie reels from society’s ideas and instead
decides to go on her own instincts. Janie realizes that in order for her to
reach her dreams she has to live life in her own way. At the very end of the
story, Janie looks back at her life and is content. Janie states, "Here was
peace. 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." Janie tells us that she
has reached her horizon, she was there and back and can tell us the tale.
"She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net." Janie has reached
her goals in life and can carry them around in her mind. Janie gives us a
message of hope, that we can achieve our goals if we so desire. So the horizon
is there, at the end of sight, taunting us. Waving what we want in front of our
faces and sticking it’s tongue out in a grin. But this is only half the story.
Hurston shows us with her story that we can achieve our goals. The horizon is
there to be reached, not to be forbidden. The horizon becomes an uplifting
message, you can get there someday.

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