Stereotypes and Distorted Images in Their Eyes Were Watching God. by Janie Crawford

Stereotypes and Distorted Images in Their Eyes Were Watching God. by Janie Crawford

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Those living in today’s world are constantly bombarded with the stereotypes and distorted images of a consumerist society. As a result, they often struggle with a loss of identity because mass media try to dictate what they should want to be and do. Zora Neale Hurston tackles this age-old search for self-discovery in her fictional frame story Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie Crawford tells her best friend, Pheoby, about her quest for her own voice, despite setbacks in the form of relatives, two husbands, and entire towns that attempt to silence her. From a young age, Janie yearns for enlightenment; however, the roles Nanny, Logan Killicks, and Joe Starks force upon her prevent her from reaching selfhood until she meets and falls in love with Tea Cake, her equal.
Recovering from an identity crisis that lasted most of her childhood, Janie realizes who she wants to be with the help of a pear tree, but her grandmother disapproves of her dissimilar feelings and forces her to cast away her horizon. With no parents there to raise her, Janie loses her sense of identity. She spends her childhood under the care of her grandma and the white people Nanny works for, and as a result, she spends all of her time playing with the Washburn’s four children. Janie does not realize that she is different from them until she turns six. When she sees a photograph of herself for the first time, she refuses to recognize her darker skin color. To compensate for her lack of self, she goes by the nickname “Alphabet” because she has so many different names. Both her connection to the Washburn family and her biracial ethnicity isolate her from the black and white communities. African-American children mock her for her nice clothes; vulnerable and frail, Jani...

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...w behind Joe in his shadow, Janie experiences a loss of identity because, like Logan, her husband treats her as an object—a thing no smarter than livestock that only serves to make the life of its owner easier. He commands that she tie up her beautiful hair in an old rag, showing that no matter how many times Janie attempts to assert her opinion, Joe will always have power over her. Joe perpetuates his wife’s submission until he becomes decrepit and sick. His death brings Janie’s independence, and she lets down her hair to demonstrate her regained liberation. No longer willing to “run off down a back road after things,” the empowered Janie will only settle for her horizon (Hurston 89). Janie’s oppressive marriages to Logan Killicks and Joe Starks take away her freedom of expression, but her unrestrained voice returns after she escapes these poisonous relationships.

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