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Use of Metaphors in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Hurston Essay

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Zora Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God follows protagonist Janie Mae Crawford’s journey into womanhood and her ultimate quest for self-discovery. Having to abruptly transition from childhood to adulthood at the age of sixteen, the story demonstrates Janie’s eternal struggle to find her own voice and realize her dreams through three marriages and a lifetime of hardships that come about from being a black woman in America in the early 20th century. Throughout the novel, Hurston uses powerful metaphors helping to “unify” (as Henry Louis Gates Jr. puts it) the novel’s themes and narrative; thus providing a greater understanding of Janie’s quest for selfhood. There are three significant metaphors in the novel that achieve this unity: the pear tree metaphor, metaphors representing the inside and outside world, and finally the figure of the mule.

I. The Pear Tree
The pear tree metaphor is one of the most prevalent and recurring metaphors throughout the novel. It is one that represents Janie’s sexual awakening, her relationships, her dreams, and her journey to womanhood. Gates argues that this repetition of the tree metaphor “is fundamental to the process of narration, and Hurston repeats the figure of the tree both to expound her theme of becoming and to render the action of the plot and simultaneous and as unified as possible” (78). The tree first appears when Janie is preparing to tell her story to Phoeby: “Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches” (8), seemingly setting out what Janie’s story will entail and as Henry Louis Gates Jr. asserts in Zora Neale Hurston and the Speakerly Text, this introduction of the metaphor “re...


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... Cited

Dilbeck, Keiko. “Symbolic Representation of Identity in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were
Watching God.” The Explicator. 66.2 (2008): 102-104. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.
Gates, Henry Louis. “Zora Neale Hurston and the Speakerly Text.” Zora Neale
Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Casebook. Ed. Cheryl. A. Wall. New
York: Oxford University Press, 2000. (59-116). Print.
Haurykiewicz, Julie. “From Mules to Muliebrity: Speech and Silence in ‘Their Eyes
Were Watching God’.” The Southern Literary Journal. 29.2 (1997): 45-60. Web.
12 Nov. 2013.
Hurston, Zora N. Their Eyes Were Watching God: [a Novel]. New York: Perennial
Classics, 1999. Print.
Johnson, Barabara. “Metaphor, Metonymy, and Voice in Their Eyes Were Watching
God.” Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Casebook. Ed.
Cheryl. A. Wall. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.



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