Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay Examples

Essays on Their Eyes Were Watching God

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses the life and trials of Janie, the protagonist, to illustrate the resilience and ability of African American women to transform much of what others use to oppress and destroy them, such as gender, education, race, and poverty, into a source of strength and empowerment. Initially, Janie is a young woman forced to adapt to the impulses and demands of those surrounding her, but she later transforms into a confident woman who unapologetically takes control of her circumstances, which is notably represented in her evolving stylistic choices and portrayal of her body. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God Novel
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Sovereignty is often defined as the supreme power or authority over itself. In the book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Hurston, One important theme throughout the book that is visible is Janie's search for her identity. Throughout the novel Janie's search has to do with her search for a name, and also freedom and finding herself. She come across different relationships based on control, independence, imprisonment etc. In the beginning of the book, the author portrays Janie as…...
LiteratureNovelsTheir Eyes Were Watching God
“Their Eyes Were Watching God”
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An analysis of the book "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston."Their Eyes Were Watching God" In life to discover our self-identity a person must show others what one thinks or feels and speak his or her mind. Sometimes their opinions may be silenced or even ignored. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character Janie would sometimes speak her ideas and they would often make a difference. The author, Zora Neale Hurston, gives Janie…...
Their Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Gender in Their Eyes Were Watching God
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Gender is the wide set of characteristics that distinguish between male and female entities, extending from one's biological sex to, in humans, one's social role or gender identity. Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. Sexual politics is the principles governing relationships between the sexes; also, such relationships seen in terms of power. Ideas and activities that are concerned with how power is shared between men and women, and how this affects their relationships Zora…...
GenderTheir Eyes Were Watching God
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Symbolism in Their Eyes Were Watching God
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Nothing can dim the light that shines from within Maya Angelou. In their eyes were watching god Zora Neale Hurston uses different types of symbolism such as her hair, the mule, and the pear tree to setup the overall theme, and show off Janie's true colors as the independent woman that she is. Having to all of a sudden changed from a child to an adult at the age of sixteen. The story shows Janie's inner struggle to find her…...
SymbolismTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Throughout Zora Neale Hurstons Their Eyes Were Watching God
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Throughout Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston uses a number of different items as symbols to convey the significance of certain events that take place in Janie’s, the main characters, lifespan. In this novel, Janie’s life moves in stages. With each stage comes a different item of clothing that represents another relationship and reflects Janie’s inner self during that period in time. Using an apron, a head rag, a blue satin dress, and overalls, Hurston communicates how…...
Their Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Quotes
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1) Janie, on her gossiping neighbors, stressing the importance of storytelling and oral tradition: "Ah don't mean to bother wid tellin' 'em nothin', Pheoby. 'Tain't worth de trouble. You can tell 'em what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf" (6). 2) Janie, to the men of Eatonville: "Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business. He told me.how surprised y'all is…...
QuoteTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God Movie
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Throughout the book Janie struggles to find the true definition of love and how to make herself happy with her relationships. She goes through several different ideas of love before finding that it is mutual compassion, understanding, and respect that makes her the most happy. Near the beginning of the book, Janie develops an idealistic view of love whilst lying underneath a pear tree. She is young and naïve, enthralled with the beauty of spring. She comes to the conclusion…...
LoveMovieTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
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About the Author Although Zora Neale Hurston (1891-- 1960) passed away impoverished and was buried in an unmarked grave in a racially segregated cemetery, she had an exceptional career as a novelist. She was likewise a pioneer in recording African American culture. Hurston matured in Eatonville, Florida, a totally included African American town, and studied at Howard University. In 1925, she moved to New York City, where she became an influential talent of the Harlem Renaissance, the blossoming of African…...
Their Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
“Zora Neale Hurston”
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In 1975, Ms. Magazine published Alice Walker's essay, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" reviving interest in the author. Hurston's four novels and two books of folklore resulted from extensive anthropological research and have proven invaluable sources on the oral cultures of African America. Zora Neale Hurston is considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature. Hurston was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and has influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker,…...
Deadly UnnaTheir Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Double Consciousness and Their Eyes Were Watching God
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Zora Neale Hurston novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a very important piece of literature written in the late 30’s which told the story of a woman and her struggle and quest as a black person, a woman and most importantly, a human being with unique goals and desires. The story followed an ambitious woman and her quest for self-realization and self-discovery together with her experiences as wives and partners of numerous men. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, a…...
ConsciousnessDouble ConsciousnessTheir Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
“The Great Gatsby” And “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
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A successful marriage can be defined as a union consisting of 3 worths: happiness, trust, and sacrifice. These worths are highlighted in The Terrific Gatsby and Their Eyes Were Seeing God as they are exhibited by the relationships talked about by the authors. The swears said throughout the marital relationship process, mainly till death do you part, associate with these worths as a guarantee in between individuals about to be wed. In order for the marriage to be successful and…...
The Great GatsbyTheir Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Gender Roles in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
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During the 1900’s, women, specifically black women, were considered to be property of men in the United States, especially down south, in states such as Florida and Georgia. Legally, women had no voice. For example, if a woman was abused by her husband, the court system would not acknowledge it even if it did really happen. In the article “Sexism in the Early 1900’s”, Becca Woltemath states that “…a woman’s job is to take care of the house and to…...
Gender RolesTheir Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Teacher’s Guide
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A classroom teacher who has purchased this guide may photocopy the materials in this publication for his/her classroom use only. Use or reproduction by a part of or an entire school or school system, by for-profit tutoring centers and like institutions, or for commercial sale, is strictly prohibited. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored without the express written permission of the publisher. Created and printed in the United States of America. Table of Contents…...
CommunicationFolkloreTeacherTheir Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Nature’s Influence on Janie’s Desire in Their Eyes Were Watching God
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As children we often cling to the storybook romance. The “happily ever after” cliché certainly appeals to the young romantic: however, the harsh reality of life may soon prove this to be foolishly sentimental. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston explores these circumstances as she outlines Janie’s pursuit of happiness. Janie is described as a child of nature. The spiritual power of nature has a tremendous affect on the development of her character. Hurston uses…...
DesireInfluenceNatureTheir Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
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Breadth of Triple Oppression

The novel also provides insight into the essence and breadth of triple oppression, a theory that states a connection exists between various types of oppression, specifically classism, racism, and sexism, whether obvious or implied, and how these attributes, female body, hair, and dress, and in this case, specifically hair styling, serves as a catalyst and symbol of change (Lynn, 2014). Hurston utilizes the element of Janie’s differing hairstyles to depict African American culture and create a platform for the African American female’s voice. Janie’s development from oppressed and powerless to achieving strength and confidence in identity through discovery of voice is apparent throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God. Not only does Janie utilize her ethnicity apparent in her physical appearance, particularly hair, as an origin of power, but Janie also uses her newfound confidence to overcome the boundaries with which early 1900 American society endeavors to silence.

Symbolism of a Headscarf

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie fights the oppression she faces in relation to her hair and she comes to recognize this attribute as a source and reflection of her female identity as an African American woman. In Eatonville, Janie’s hair is recognized by her community as a beautiful source of long, abounding radiance. In contrasting opinion, Joe Sparks, Janie’s jealous husband, becomes envious of her beauty and forces her to cover her hair with a headscarf. In order to understand the oppression Janie encounters and the significance of her trials to gain freedom by way of positive self-concept of hair, it is necessary to gain a brief understanding of the historical and cultural significance of female African hair, specifically the headscarf. Traditionally, the African American female headscarf holds a unique position in the history of African dress both for its longevity and its potent significations (Siamonga, 2015).

The headscarf originated in sub-Saharan Africa, and serves a similar function for both African and African American women. Upon arriving in the colonies, African slaves adapted their hair to American culture via headscarves in order to protect their scalps from the sun and heat. In the sense of style, the African American female’s headscarf depicts the features of sub-Saharan aesthetics and world view (Siamonga, 2015). However, in the United States, the headscarf seized a paradox of meaning not customary on the ancestral continent. Headscarves evolved from the common practice of black females keeping their heads continually covered and became pervasive in slave culture as a symbol of the oppression they faced (Siamonga, 2015). In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the oppression of African hair from the time of slavery to the contemporary age is a social trauma.

Symbol of White and Black Oppression

When considering the headscarf as a symbol of white oppression over blacks through the servitude and anguish of slavery, Joe’s demand that Janie must tie up her alluring hair in a headscarf takes on a multitude of different meanings. Although Janie lives decades after slavery was emancipated, Joe oppresses her with the restriction black slave women were forced to adopt because of slavery, which alters the dynamic of oppression from white over black to black over black, along with husband over wife, or male over female. Joe’s domination over Janie is a form of punishment for her beauty because he becomes jealous when other men begin to take notice of her hair. Before their marriage, Joe encourages Janie to flaunt her gorgeous locks, “Kiss me and shake yo’ head. When you do dat, yo’ plentiful hair breaks lak day” (Hurston, 30). But as marriage sets in, Joe turns his focus to protecting their union from the multiple single men in their community. As Janie and Joe continue to grow apart, Janie begins to hide her most intimate and personal feelings, “She found that she had a host of thoughts never expressed to him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about.

Things packed up and put away in parts of her where he could never find them” (Hurston, 72). Janie’s conscious separation of the self can be seen as a form of self-preservation. The man who once promised Janie the world and what it feels like to be treated as a true lady is now a possessive dictator who forces Janie to hide her flowing main. But the townspeople cannot understand why Joe demands Janie hide her hair and consequently, her hair earns the admiration of those around her. Although Joe’s instinct to protect his wife from harm, in this instance, other men, is natural, his inability to express his emotions and his unwarranted punishment of wearing a headscarf results in misappropriation of his love for her. This escalating abuse gives way to the death of her love for Joe while also becoming a symbol of oppression.

Self-Concept of Body Image

Part of the developing self-concept of body image, or realization thereof, is affected by or reflected in the individual’s use of the body, including sexuality, specifically found in Janie’s hair. Although Janie’s allure is celebrated throughout the novel, her body and sexuality are oppressed by both Logan Killicks and Joe Starks. Janie’s first husband, Logan Killicks, is years older than herself and she struggles to find an attraction towards him, which makes the notion of sexual consummation of the marriage highly improbable. In addition, Logan complains of Janie’s “stingy” behavior toward him, which implies her lack of attention to his needs both sexual and non-sexual (Hurston, 26). In Janie’s second marriage to Joe, the more he controls her body, particularly her hair, the more her sexuality diminishes. Joe restricts Janie’s hair by demanding she wear a headscarf and he regulates her to the domestic sphere of the house and the occupational territory of the store, both places where his observant eyes do not need to look far to check on her. Joe’s jealousy stems from his own insecurities about his age and the masculine power Janie’s hair holds is too much for him to bear. Janie’s first two marriages stand in stark contrast to her union with Tea Cake, who celebrates and accepts her beauty, worth, and body. In this sense, Janie’s hair can be representative of a phallic symbol. When Janie is restricted to the confines of unfulfilling relationships, her hair is bound by a headscarf but when she forms a relationship with Tea Cake her hair is let loose as is her sexuality.

Unlike Logan and Joe, Tea Cake is determined to give Janie pleasure, affirm her beauty, and appreciate her gorgeous hair. But at this time Janie is still struggling to trust Tea Cake and in reaction to his intimate affection she retracts and stands “… up at once, collecting her hair” (Hurston, 104). By gathering her hair, Janie temporarily closes herself off from Tea Cake in an effort to protect herself from more harm because of her past experiences with men and the age gap between herself and Tea Cake. However, Janie eventually learns to trust Tea Cake, and throughout their adventures she slowly achieves total liberation. Janie is free to be herself and act upon her desires. Furthermore, Tea Cake teaches Janie the beauty of sexual intimacy and pleasure. This newfound freedom Janie finds within their relationship, prepares her to move on with life and retake the place she once left as an oppressed woman after Tea Cake’s death.

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