A Women's Search for Identity in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

A Women's Search for Identity in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

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“It’s uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there…” (Hurston 192). The theme of identity can be seen throughout Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, of a story of a women’s journey for self-identification. Through symbolic imagery, such as the pear tree, Janie’s hair, and the horizon, Hurston ultimately shows a women’s quest for her identity.
As a young teenager, Janie becomes infatuated with the idea of an idealistic romance: “She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace…So this was a marriage!” (Hurston 11). This image represents Janie’s budding sexuality; Janie wants to find the love and affection from a man, that the bees share with the pear tree, thus sparking her quest to finding this love throughout the novel. Janie experiences three different marriages to Logan, to Jody, and to Tea Cake. Since Janie’s first marriage was arranged by her grandmother, Janie never found the love she was searching for and once her grandmother died Janie’s obligation to Logan died as well. Janie becomes free to marry whomever she wants and free to continue her search for love. Although Janie finds happiness in the second marriage to Jody, the love begins to fade because Jody is unwilling to treat her as an equal: “He wanted her submission and he’d keep fighting until he felt he had it” (Hurston 71). Joe represents strength and power, resulting in his domination over anything that crosses his path, and once Janie realizes this she believes her love is to be saved for another man she has yet to meet. In her final marriage to Tea Cake, Janie finds the pear tree she been looking for. Unlike the previous marriages, Tea Cake allows her to be herself...


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...other place Janie has been, thus symbolizing the growth of Janie’s identity because of the love Tea Cake gives her. Overall, Hurston uses the symbolism of the horizon to show Janie’s hope to finding the unknown in her life.
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board... for others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight…” (Hurston 1). Hurston uses this metaphor at the beginning of Their Eyes Were Watching God to show Janie’s quest for self-identification, Janie is the ship at a distance wishing to find herself. Although she faces many challenges causing her quest to be deferred, she never lost sight of her goal and she reaches it in the end: “Ah done been tuh de horizon back and now Ah kin seat heah...” (Hurston 191). Overall Hurston beautifully portrays a women’s quest for identity through the use of symbolism in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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