Essay, Research Paper: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Literature: Their Eyes Were Watching God

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The novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by, Zora Neale Hurston, was
full of imagination, imagery and phrasing. Janie’s character and dialogue
seemed to slip wisdom into the readers’ head without them knowing their
ingesting something deep and true. The ups and downs of Janie’s life have made
her a stronger person. This is shown endless times throughout the novel. I feel
that this story recognizes that there are endless problems to the human
condition, such as the need to possess, fear of the unknowing and stagnation.
However, the story does not give a feeling of hopelessness. Through Janie’s
character, Ms. Hurston extends a recognition and understanding of humanity’s
need to escape emptiness. “Dem meatskins is got tuh rattle tuh make out
they’s alive (183)” Her solution is simple: “Yuh got tuh go there tuh know
there.” Janie sets out on a quest to make sense of inner questions. She does
not sit back and let the tragedies in her life cripple her. Instead it
strengthens her. Through questioning and discovery she better understands the
world she lives in and how small a thing happiness is comprised of: “If you
kin see de light at daybreak, you don’t keer if you die at dusk. It’s so
many people never seen de light at all. (151)” This quote caught my eye while
I was reading because it makes you truly think of what really makes you happy in
life. Janie married Logan Killick’s for protection rather than love. He seemed
to feel that he deserved to slap her around. Janie soon realizes that she is
living in Nanny’s dreams rather than her own and decides to escape with Jody.
“A feeling of sudden newness and change came over her.... Even if Joe was not
there waiting for her, the change was bound to do her good. (32)” This shows a
great strength in her character because even if Joe wasn’t there for her she
would still be determined to change without him. Joe seems closer to her ideal,
closer to the dream of marriage that she has. But, he represents a black man who
wishes to gain wealth and power. From the beginning of their relationship there
were signs that he was not the love Janie was looking for. “On the train the
next day, Joe didn’t made many speeches with rhymes to her, but he bought her
the best things the butcher had...(34)” Jody’s life revolved around money
this was already apparent. He bought her things because he was
ownership-oriented. Jody treated her more like an object than a human. He thinks
that, “Somebody got to think for women and chilun and chickens and cows
(67)” He is good to Janie but he is also good to his animals. His attitude
toward Janie is shown by the over worked mules he buys and sets free. He allows
the mules to wander around town as evidence of his generosity and wealth.
“Freein’ dat mule makes a mighty fine man outa you. Something like George
Washington...you got uh town so you freed uh mule. You have tuh have power tuh
free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh something (55).” Here Janie
realizes that she too serves only as a reflection of his position and wealth.
Tea Cake, on the other hand, gave Janie the freedom to be who she was, not who
someone wanted her to be. He allowed her to bloom. He not only encouraged her
growth to independence but also furthers it by teaching her skills and praising
her talents. Although he does not have the financial stability of the first two
men he has an openness of mind that allows Janie to escape from people’s
expectations. He makes Janie realize that she has to decided what she wants out
of life, and she discovers she hates the limitations Nanny imposed on
self-fulfillment: “Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the neck
tight enough to choke her.” Even though Tea Cake dies and Janie ends up alone
she has lived a life of experience and a self-realization that gives her peace.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” The fact that
she is alone and is now in peace with herself shows the strength of an African
American woman. In conclusion, Janie’s life was full of tragedy but she pulled
through and made the best out of what she had. She never gave up and always kept
striving for the life she always wanted. Even though she ended up alone in the
end she was still strong and proud of herself. This shows strength more enduring
than anything. She never let anything hold her down and became at peace with
herself.
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