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Essay on Janie’s Self-Perception in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the character of Janie Crawford experiences severe ideological conflicts with her grandmother, and the effects of these conflicts are far-reaching indeed. Hurston’s novel of manners, noted for its exploration of the black female experience, fully shows how a conflict with one’s elders can alter one’s self image. In the case of Janie and Nanny, it is Janie’s perception of men that is altered, as well as her perception of self. The conflict between the two women is largely generational in nature, and appears heart-breakingly inevitable.
Hurston’s Nanny has seen a lot of trouble in her life. Once a slave, Nanny tells of being raped by her master, an act from which Janie’s mother was brought into the world. With a crushing sense of personal sacrifice, Nanny tells sixteen-year-old Janie of hiding the light skinned baby from an angry, betrayed slave master’s wife. Young Janie listens to Nanny’s troubles thoughtfully, but Hurston subtly lets the reader know that Nanny’s stern, embittered world view does not have much to do with Ja...


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