"Dey all useter call me Alphabet 'cause so many people had done named me different names," Janie innocently expresses (Hurston 9). The nickname "Alphabet" is appropriate in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God because she is indefinable to others and herself. From her early childhood, Janie Crawford searches for self-knowledge and grows through her relationships with men, family, and society. The main character continually seeks autonomy and self-realization, but her quest cannot continue as long as she is the object of others. Janie must find her own identity to become the subject of her desires and dreams. To accomplish this, she enters into, not away from, black culture to find her meaning in life. Janie dares not to be pathetic, or tragic, but to defy the expectations of her men, family, and society. Through Janie's life experiences, she is able to shift from the object of other's lives to the subject of her own life.
Hurston uses the power of language and different narrative techniques to show Janie's transition throughout the novel. It is important to notice that in Janie's journey from object to subject, the narration of the novel shifts from third person to a mixture of first and third person; thus, the shift shows the awareness of self within Janie. Language becomes an instrument of injury and salvation and of selfhood and empowerment. The use of powerful language is exemplified well in the text when Janie is asked to say a few words as the new Mrs. Mayor. Joe, her second husband, quickly cuts in and says, "Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'. Ah never married her for not...
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...izes the chance for happiness. Janie is comfortable knowing that she can live for herself, for she has become the subject of her own life. Janie is a complete woman because her inner and outer self unites; she transforms her social role into an organic role. Being comfortable in one's own skin and self, because of and not in spite of, is the true source of joy.
Sources Cited and Consulted
Hinton, Kip Austin. "Zora Neale Hurston." Zora Neale Hurston Web Site. Kip Austin Hinton, ed. 07/16/2003. Available at www.1.am/zora
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper & Row, 1937.
Kubitschek, Missy Dehn. " 'Tuh de Horizon and Back': The Female Quest in Their Eyes Were Watching God." Modern Critical Interpretations: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
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