An Epic Search in Their Eyes Were Watching God

808 Words4 Pages
An Epic Search in Their Eyes Were Watching God

In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston shows how

the lives of American women changed in the early 20th century. Zora Neale

Hurston creates a character in her own likeness in her masterpiece, Their Eyes

Were Watching God. By presenting Janie's search for identity, from her

childbirth with Nanny to the death of Tea Cake, Hurston shows what a free

southern black women might have experienced in the early decades of the century.

To the racial ties that would affect Janie all the way through this life long


Janie's search for identity actually started long before she was born.

Because Janie's search is her family's search. Nanny and Janie's mom gave Janie

a reason to search. They were always held back by their owners, and their owners

took advantage of them, and raped them. They raped them of their identity. Nanny

signifies to evade the realities of her life and the life of Janie. When Nanny

says, "Thank yuh, Massa Jesus," she is illustrating that although she is no

longer a slave, the slave consciousness has caused her to view even her

relationship with the deity about slave and master. This makes Janie the leader

of her family's search. However Nanny realized this, and when she saw that Janie

was old enough for love she had her married. This guaranteed that Janie would

not continue a loss of identity.

Even as a young girl, living in the materialistic world of her Nanny and

her first husband, Logan Killicks, Janie chooses to listen to "the words of the

trees and the wind" (23-24). This is the first evidence of her searching beyond

her boring life. This then leads to her everyday life left empty, because she is

always looking farther than where she is at the time. So day by day she gets

more worked up into leaving Logan, and searching for love. When she leaves Logan

to run off with Joe, she thinks to herself, "Her old thoughts were going to come

in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them" (31).

Joe aims to be a big voice and that is why he comes to Eatonville,

Florida. He feels that he will have a better chance at being a big voice in an

all black town than in a white man's town. The problem is that he has adopted

white man's values and forces them upon the townspeople and, most notably, upon
Open Document