Literary Analysis On Their Eyes Were Watching

God Essay, Research Paper

The role of women in a black society is a major theme of this novel. There are several women who aid in demonstrating Hurston’s ideas. Hurston uses Janie’s grandmother, Nanny, to show one extreme of women in a black society, the women who follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. Nanny is stuck in the past. She still believes in all the things that used to be, and wants to keep things the way they were, but also desires a better life for her granddaughter than she had. When Nanny catches Janie kissing a trashy nigger, breath-and-britches young man whom she says will be usin [Janie s] body to wipe his foots on (Hurston 12), she immediately marries Janie off to Logan Killicks, a wealthy farmer in the town. Janie doesn’t love Logan, but that doesn’t matter to Nanny, as long as her grandchild is protected. When Janie comes to tell her grandmother that she still doesn t love Logan after three months of marriage, Nanny says, you come heah wid yo mouf full uh foolishness on uh busy day. Heah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo bawn days, and big protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call you Mis Killicks, and you come worryin me bout love (Hurston 22). Nanny doesn’t care whether or not Janie’s in love, so long as she doesn’t have to worry about her financial situation. The main goal of the ex-slaves was to be able to survive in the world, and that meant money to pay for their survival. Many of them either stayed with their old masters, bought farms of their own, or moved North in pursuit of other vocations (Hoobler 51). Nanny wanted Janie to be able to survive in her community. She tells Janie that De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah kin see. Ah been prayin fuh it tuh be different wid you (Hurston 14). Nanny may want Treece 2society to change for Janie, but she still won t let her granddaughter make her own decisions about her life. Nanny is trying to follow her dream of affluence and true happiness through her granddaughter, Janie. Many blacks did this by moving North for better work and living standards. What they found when they got there was that racism doesn’t stay in just one place. They still had a difficult time finding work and a worse time overcoming goals. The author uses Pheoby as an example of women who are beginning to show a progression toward the pursuit of their dreams. She is beginning to follow after Janie s example of attaining her goals. Pheoby has been on the other side of society, with tradition and status. When rumors are spreading about Janie and Tea Cake, Pheoby takes the town s side saying, Janie, everybody s talkin bout how dat Tea Cake is draggin you round tuh places you ain t used tuh. Baseball games and huntin and fishin . He don t know you’se useter uh more high time crowd than dat . You always did class off (Hurston 107). Pheoby doesn t think Janie should be hanging around people like Tea Cake either. Pheoby then grows from Janie s example and decides to change her ways. After listening to Janie s life story, Pheoby remarks, Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus listenin tuh you, Janie. Ah ain t satisfied wid mahself no mo . Ah means tuh make Sam take me fishin wid him after this. Nobody better not criticize yuh in mah hearin (Hurston 183). Pheoby has decided that she wants to follow her dreams. She ll do that by going fishing with her husband, or any other way she can as long as she can gain happiness from it. Hurston is trying to tell the black society that they should follow their dreams if they want to be happy and she uses Pheoby to illustrate this. Treece 3Through Janie, Hurston gives an example of a woman in society who follows her dreams and takes control of her soul. After three marriages in which she is owned by the men in the relationship, Janie finds that she can own herself. Black society in the early 1900s was growing toward the emancipation of its soul. With figures such as Booker T. Washington, who founded the Tuskegee Institute, blacks were able to gain an education ( BookTaliWash ). Also, with the foundation of the NAACP in 1909 by only 60 people, some of the harsh laws such as grandfather clauses and some Jim Crow laws were abolished (Encarta). Because of these advancements, black people began to let their souls free. With the Harlem Renaissance, blacks began to express their talents through new facets. They began writing literature, acting in Broadway plays and developing Jazz (Nash 251). A 1925 copy of the New York Herald Tribune said we are on the edge, if not in the midst, of what might not improperly be called a Negro Renaissance (Rood 38). Through the Harlem Renaissance blacks were able to gain intellectual freedom.

Janie s first attempt to free her soul is from her husband Logan Killicks. Logan treats her like a slave, using her for cooking and cleaning. He also wants to make her work outside, chopping wood and plowing the field alongside him. He thinks she doesn t take a bit of interest in [the farm] (Hurston 30). After realizing that she doesn t want to spend her life as a slave, she runs away from Logan to be with a man that she had met only days before this realization. It takes a while for her to decide this, but when she finally does a feeling of sudden newness and change came over her. Janie hurried out of the front gate and turned south. Even if Joe was not there waiting for her, the change was bound to do her good (Hurston 31). She is finally facing reality and getting out from under Logan s rule before it’s too late. Treece 4Once again Janie is simply a possession of her new husband. Starks won t let Janie do what the townspeople do for fear they might think less of her. He classed [her] off (Hurston 107). A possessive tool Starks uses against Janie is that he makes her keep her hair up in a rag while she s in the store so he can be the only one to enjoy it. Her hair was NOT going to show in that store. . . . He had seen other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store (Hurston 51). He was a very jealous man and wanted to keep Janie all to himself. Janie slowly begins to break out of the clay shell that Starks has been molding her into throughout their marriage. She was saving up feelings for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she know how not to mix them (Hurston 68). Starks death makes this transition possible for her. She begins to let herself live, with no boundaries holding her back. She starts going places with the much younger Tea Cake, and stops wearing mourning colors. When questioned about this she replies, Tea Cake love me in blue, so Ah wears it. Jody ain t never in his life picked out no color for me. De world picked out black and white for mournin , Joe didn t. So Ah wasn t wearin it for him. Ah was wearin it for de rest of y all (Hurston 108). Janie is through mourning. She was done grieving months ago, so she shouldn’t still have to dress the part. Tea Cake helps Janie s soul soar. One morning while he holds her she watches him as he drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place (Hurston 102). She now has room to live. Janie is reaching for her goals and is finally beginning to achieve them. This expresses the black movement from oppression to the freedom of their souls, as seen in the Harlem Renaissance.


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