Mythology in Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

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Mythology is a key part of many of Zora Neale Hurston’s short stories and novels. She researched the stories of her home town and many other areas of the world. Hurston used this knowledge of myths and stories to help her carry them on to later generations in a form that almost everybody could relate to. Through out all of Zora Neale Hurston’s stories, mythology has been a crucial keystone. Her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, has been influenced by three different ancient myths: the myths of Ezili Freda, Osiris and Isis, and Aphrodite and Adonis.

Janie’s love for nature and turbulent relationships comes from the myth of the Haitian Goddess of love, Ezili Freda. In the novel the main character, Janie, is deeply interested in love and sexual energy in nature. Such is shown when Janie is sitting under a pear tree and just examining the beauty before her eyes. Throughout most of the story Janie has less than perfect relationships with men. Janie’s loathed her first three husbands and had to eventually kill her fourth one. The Haitian Goddess of love, Ezili Freda, has these exact same characteristics (Collins). Freda was the Goddess of love and was very sexual and flirtatious, but as with the fate of Janie, Freda would always fail to find one man that would be able to spend life with. It’s clear, with the similarities presented, that Hurston based the character Janie on Ezili Freda. Even when Freda was able to find someone that was right for her it was destined to be tragic. This is just like when Janie finally met Tea Cake but in the end had to kill him. Both had finally found love but due to their unfortunate fates both were destined to lose them.

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Not only does Janie parallel Freda, her character can be seen to hav...

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...ee have in common is they all provide knowledge to one that previously had a lack of knowledge. The God Osiris was one that was a very talented musician (Barr 111). In various passages throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God Tea Cake is portrayed as a musician, again a parallel between him and Osiris.

With Zora Neale Hurston traveling around the world and collecting myths of all different countries and cultures she is clearly an expert on mythology. Since the she could see the tradition of oral story telling was dying she kept it alive in her writing. She was able to tell a story that would not only be appealing to a woman or an African American but to everybody. In doing so she was accomplishing her goal of spreading and preserving mythology. Many of the key plot elements and characters were based on the myths that Hurston had researched and was familiar with.
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