Symbolism in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, she utilizes an array of symbolism such as color, the store, and her husbands to solidify the overall theme of independence and individuality. Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered by many a classic American Feminist piece that emphasizes how life was for African Americans post slave era in the early 1900s. One source summarizes the story as, 1 ”a woman's quest for fulfillment and liberation in a society where women are objects to be used for physical work and pleasure.” Which is why the overall theme is concurrent to independence and self.

The first way the author uses symbolism to show the overall theme is with color. Numerous times in the novel Janie is wearing a different color ostentatiously depending on what is taking place. Although the message is oblique, most can find meaning behind it. Starting in the first chapter the color Blue is mentioned. “ … Where's dat blue satin dress she left here in?” (pg.2) This is the beginning where Janie is coming back with nothing and the towns women are gossiping about her status and appearance. Even later the author shows that she wears blue because of Tea Cake, “Wait till you see de new blue satin Tea Cake done picked out for me tuh stand up with him in.” (pg. 115) Traditionally the color blue represents 2 depth and stability. It can also symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. From early on Hurston is indicating that Janie will be some of those traits and through out the novel the reader realizes that Janie is actually loyal, stable,wise, and confident after she is introduced to Tea Cake.

The next color the author uses is white. When Janie and Jody are about to build ...

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...James Robert Saunders, "Womanism as the Key to Understanding Zora Neale Hurston's `Their Eyes Were Watching God' and Alice Walker's `The Color Purple'," in The Hollins Critic, Vol. XXV, No. 4, October, 1988, pp. 1-11. Reproduced by permission.

1. c.Robert E. Hemenway, in his Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, University of Illinois Press, 1977, 371 p.

2. "Color Wheel Pro: Color Meaning." Color Wheel Pro: See Color Theory in Action! Color Wheel, 22 Jan. 2001. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. .

3. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 51: Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Trudier Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Gale Group, 1987. pp. 133-145.

4. Hurston, Zora Neal. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Collins, 1937. Print.
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