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Essay on Imagery in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Positive Imagery in Their Eyes Were Watching God


In Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the life of Janie is presented as a journey. Janie survives a grandmother, three husbands, and innumerable friends. Throughout this journey, she moves towards her ideals about love and how to live one's life. Hurston chooses to define Janie not by what is wrong in her life, but by what is good in it. Janie undergoes many changes throughout her journey, but the imagery in her life always conjures positive ideas in the mind of the reader.

Janie's life begins under the watchful eye of her grandmother. Her grandmother has given up her own happiness to raise Janie and her mother. Right away, it is obvious that Janie's life is going to be different than her grandmother's. For starters, Janie has very different ideas about love than any other character. She may not be able to clearly define her thoughts, but the reader still sees that Janie's ideas are romantic and full of sensuality. The first glimpse into the past that the reader sees involves Janie underneath a pear tree, watching the flowers bloom. The descriptive language ("From barren brown stems to glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom" [10]) beautifully juxtaposed with complex thought ("The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It . . . followed her. . . and caressed her . . ." [10]) lets the reader experience the same feelings that Janie does, even though she is not yet old enough to fully describe them herself.

Janie's grandmother is old and weak. She never had a person in her life who cared for her and truly wanted to look out for her well-being. As a result, she is frightened by Janie's refusal to follow the mold, ...


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...tell it again. She doesn't need to. Janie has lived her life and survived her journey. Zora Neale Hurston closes off Their Eyes Were Watching God with one final, poignant image; Janie "[calling] in her soul to come and see" [184] the splendor of her life.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bourn, Byron D. "Women's Roles in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and James Baldwin's Go Tell It On the Mountain"

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper & Row, 1937.

Johnson, Barbara. "Metaphor, Metonymy and Voice in Their Eyes Were Watching God." Modern Critical Interpretations: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Lubitschek, Cyrena N. "The Role of Imagery in Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God." American Literature 58.2 (May 1996): 181-202.



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