In 1937, upon the first publication of Their Eyes Were Watching God, the most influential black writer of his time, Richard Wright, stated that the novel "carries no theme, no message, [and] no thought." Wright's powerful critique epitomized a nation's attitude toward Zora Neale Hurston's second novel. African-American critics read a book that they felt satisfied the "white man's" stereotype of African-American culture and the humor which Caucasians saw in that prejudice. However, those critics and most of America overlooked the wonderful use of imagery, symbolism, and thematic application of one African-American female's journey into womanhood and self-identification in a male-dominated society. Hurston introduced Janie Crawford, a strong, articulate, and dramatic character whose life was best empathized by women or by inhabitants of migrant farms and rural Black towns. Their Eyes Were Watching God is permeated with recurring symbols, such as a pear tree, a fence-gate, and Janie's hair, that enlighten a young girl's quest for self-fulfillment, as she discovers the true meaning of love and happiness through two failed marriages and one successful but tragic third.
The strongest symbol in Their Eyes Were Watching God is the pear tree. The pear blossom is a representation of Janie, as she is a young girl blooming into a woman during a spring afternoon. Hurston explains this symbolism at the first of the chapter, describing Janie as ìa great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branchesî (Hurston 8) Janie then lies beneath the tree, observes the bees pollinate a blossom, and ex...
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...ecade of prejudice against African-Americans, women, and most importantly, African-American women.
Sources Cited and Consulted:
Donlon, Jocelyn Hazelwood. "Power: Spatial and Racial Intersections in Faulkner and Hurston."Journal of American Culture (1996): 95-110. Online. Internet. 8 December 2001. Available: http:vweb.hwwilsonweb.com/
Fetterley, Judith. "Introduction to the Resisting Reader: a Feminist Approach to American Fiction." The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford books, 1998. 991-998.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial Classics, 1990.
Jacobs, Karen. "From 'Spy-glass' to Horizon: Tracking the Anthropological Gaze in Zora Neale
Hurston." Novel (1997): 329-60. Online. Internet. 8 December 2001. Available: http:vweb.hwwilsonweb.com/
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