Zora Neale Hurston's They Eyes Were Watching God

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Zora Neale Hurston's They Eyes Were Watching God

It’s no wonder that “[t]he hurricane scene in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is a famous one and [that] other writers have used it in an effort to signify on Hurston” (Mills, “Hurston”). The final, climactic portion of this scene acts as the central metaphor of the novel and illustrates the pivotal interactions that Janie, the protagonist, has with her Nanny and each of her three husbands. In each relationship, Janie tries to “’go tuh God, and…find out about livin’ fuh [herself]’” (192). She does this by approaching each surrogate parental figure as one would go to God, the Father; she offers her faith and obedience to them and receives their definitions of love and protection in return. When they threaten to annihilate and hush her with these definitions, however, she uses her voice and fights to save her dream and her life. Hurston shows how Janie’s parental figures transform into metaphorical hurricanes, how a literal hurricane transforms into a metaphorical representation of Janie’s parental figures, and how Janie survives all five hurricanes.

Janie’s first parental, godlike figure is Nanny, and she is the first to assume the form of a metaphorical hurricane or “[s]omething resembling a hurricane in force or speed” (“Hurricane”). Nanny establishes her parental, godlike status to Janie when she says, “’You ain’t got no papa, you might jus’ as well say no mama, for de good she do yuh. You ain’t got nobody but me…Neither can you stand alone by yo’self’” (15). While acting as the sole provider of love and protection to Janie, Nanny assumes the speed and force of a hurricane; “she bolt[s] upright” upon witnessing Janie’s first kiss an...

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...er, she uses her voice and fights to save her dream and her life. Because the hurricane scene serves as the central metaphor of Hurston’s novel, it’s not surprising that other writers would want to use the hurricane to signify on Hurston. What may surprise these other writers, however, is that the novel actually includes five hurricane scenes, not just one.

Works Cited

“Fill.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

2000 Fourth ed. Bartleby.com. 13 Nov. 2004

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Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York:

Perennial, (1937) 1965.

“Hurricane.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English

Language 2000 Fourth ed. Bartleby.com. 13 Nov. 2004

.

Mills, Elizabeth. “Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Eighteenth Class Meeting. English 281. Davidson College. 26

Oct. 2004.
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