Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by, Zora Neale Hurston, was

full of imagination, imagery and phrasing. Janie’s character and dialogue seemed to slip wisdom

into the reader’s head without them knowing their ingesting something deep and true. The ups

and downs of Janie’s life have made her a stronger person. This is shown endless times

throughout the novel. I feel that this story recognizes that there are endless problems to the

human condition, such as the need to possess, fear of the unknowing and stagnation. However,

the story does not give a feeling of hopelessness. Through Janie’s character, Ms. Hurston extends

a recognition and understanding of humanity’s need to escape emptiness. “Dem meat skins is got

tuh rattle tuh make out they’s alive.” (Hurston 183) Her solution is simple: ““Yuh got tuh go

there tuh know there.” (Hurston 185)

Janie sets out on a quest to make sense of inner questions. She does not sit back and

let the tragedies in her life cripple her. Instead it strengthens her. Through questioning and

discovery she better understands the world she lives in and how small a thing like happiness is

comprised of, “If you kin see de light at daybreak, you don’t care if you die at dusk. It’s so many

people never seen de light at all.” (Hurston 151) This quote caught my eye while I was reading

because it makes you truly think of what really makes you happy in life.

Janie married Logan Killicks for protection rather than love. He seemed to feel that he

deserved to slap her around. Janie soon realizes that she is living in Nanny’s dreams rather than

her own and decides to escape with Jody. A feeling of sudden newness and change came over

her. “Even if Joe was not there waiting for her, the change was bound to do her good.”

(Hurston 32) This shows a great strength in her character because even if Joe was not there for

her she would still be determined to change without him. Joe seems closer to her ideal, closer to

the dream of marriage that she has. But, he represents a black man who wishes to gain wealth and


From the beginning of their relationship there were signs that he was not the love Janie

was looking for. “On the train the next day, Joe didn’t made many speeches with rhymes to her,

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but he bought her the best things the butcher had.”( Hurston34) Jody’s life revolved around

money this was already apparent. He bought her things because he was ownership-oriented. Jody

treated her more like an object than a human. He thinks that, “Somebody got to think for women

and chilun and chickens and cows.” ( Hurston 67) He is good to Janie but he is also good to his

animals. His attitude toward Janie is shown by the over worked mules he buys and sets free. He

allows the mules to wander around town as evidence of his generosity and wealth. “Freein dat

mule makes a mighty fine man outa you. Something like George Washington got uh town so you

freed uh mule. You have tuh have power tuh free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh

something.” (Hurston 55) Here Janie realizes that she too serves only as a reflection of his

position and wealth.

Tea Cake, on the other hand, gave Janie the freedom to be who she was, not who

someone wanted her to be. He allowed her to bloom. He not only encouraged her growth to

independence but also furthers it by teaching her skills and praising her talents. Although he does

not have the financial stability of the first two men he has an openness of mind that allows Janie

to escape from people’s expectations. He makes Janie realize that she has to decided what she

want’s out of life, and she discovers she hates the limitations the Nanny imposed on self-

fulfillment. The Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the neck tight enough to

choke her. Even though Tea Cake dies and Janie ends up alone, she has lived a life of experience

and a self-realization that gives her peace. There are years that ask questions and years that

answer. The fact that she is alone and is now in peace with herself shows the strength of an

African American woman.

In conclusion, Janie’s life was full of tragedy but she pulled through and made the best

out of what she had. She never gave up and always kept striving for the life she always wanted.

Even though she ended up alone in the end she was still strong and proud of herself. This shows

strength more enduring than anything. She never let anything hold her down and keep her form

becoming at peace with herself. This is when she truly finds happiness.

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