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Universal Themes of Womanhood Nora Zeale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

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In 1937, Nora Zeale Hurston published Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel that forever changed societies view on women. Zora Neale Hurston’s character, Janie, portrays a black, southern woman, although she is black, universal positions of women play a key role in her development. Universal themes of women are reiterated and reinforced through the series of three marriages with three men. These three men play a role in Janie’s life long search for independence and soul renewal.
Janie’s grandmother, Nanny, sparks the beginning of the journey through the search of her inner self. Because of Janie’s blossoming womanhood, Nanny insists that Janie gets married right away. With Nanny’s experience with slavery, her actions in insuring financial stability and respectability for Janie, is sparked by it. With Nanny’s request, Janie’s want of independence clashes with Nanny’s plans for Janie. To soothe Nanny’s request, Janie marries Logan Killicks. Like all elders, the reassurance of the safety and stability of their children and grandchildren gives them ease. With Janie’s young and rebellious age, she does not realize the need of these essentials. Janie’s rebellious attitude drives the remainder of the novel. Like all women, Janie is expected to withdraw from her views to please her grandmother, which she does. Janie’s principle of independence is overridden by her grandmother. During the slavery era, the elders were dominant over the younger individuals. Not only does the theme of “elders know best” exist in African American culture but in society as a whole, such as the Native Americans and the Africans. Janie wanted to give her grandmother assurance that she would be taken care of before her death, a month after Janie’s marriage, Nan...


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...in size and production, the marriage between Jody and Janie deteriorates. Because of Jody’s views on what the place of a woman is, they clash. Jody insists that Janie works in the store until he “commands” her to stop. Because he believes that women should be seen and not heard, Janie is muted when she has a statement. Because of Jody’s thirst for power, Janie was pushed to the background. Not only does the marriage deteriorate but Jody’s health. “When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life.” After an argument erupted between them, Jody refused to talk to Janie and retired to a separate wing of the house. During his last hours, Janie refused to be hushed any longer. Jody’s death allowed Janie to not only free her spirit but her hair. Being jealous of all the other men, Jody required Janie to wear her hair in a bun whenever she was in the store.


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