Nature Themes in Hurston’s Novels, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Seraph on the Suwanee

Nature Themes in Hurston’s Novels, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Seraph on the Suwanee

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Nature Themes in Hurston’s Novels, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Seraph on the Suwanee


Nature themes resound throughout Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Seraph on the Suwanee. Perhaps two of the most notable instances where the lush Florida scenery augments the novels’ plot lines are the “tree scenes”, in which Janie kisses Johnny Taylor beneath the pear tree in Their Eyes Were Watching God (p. 10-12) and Arvey loses her virginity to Jim beneath the mulberry tree in Seraph on the Suwanee (p. 37 & pp. 50-53).

Close readings of the two passages reveal sexually charged language. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the pear tree’s “barren brown stems” and the “snowy virginity of bloom” are referenced, possibly emphasizing Janie’s naiveté in her dealings with love and passion (she sees no harm in the kiss, while her grandmother views it as an omen of Janie’s soon-to-be-lost innocence) and Janie’s own inability to have children, regardless of any sexual awakening she may experience. The scene is also rife with mentions of the pollinating bees, a symbol of fertility. Jani...

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