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Their Eyes Were Watching God Research Paper

.. nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feeling are all hurt about it… No, I do not weep at the world- I am to busy sharpening my oyster knife (Discovering Authors, 4). Hurston showed her true opinions on race relations in her autobiography Dust Tracks on the Road when she declared black artists should celebrate the positive aspects of black American Negrohood. And that is exactly what Hurston did through her innovative characters in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie is raised by her grandmother.

Grandmother sets Janie up for her journey of self-discovery. Janie’s grandmother set her goal for Janie’s life by saying, “Ah wanted you to look upon yo’ self. Ah don’t want yo’ feathers always crumpled by folks throwin’ up things in yo’ face” (Hurston, 14). Her grandmother has a desire to see Janie in a ‘safe’ place, or in other words, a place where she will never have to want for anything. Janie loved her grandmother and wanted to please her even though she was not sure she agreed with all of the plans her grandmother had made.

“Janie had been angry at her grandmother for having ‘taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon.. and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her grandmother’s neck tight enough to choke her'” (Reich, 4). Her grandmother accomplishes this by arranging for Janie to marry Logan Killicks. Logan Killicks is a farmer who marries Janie shortly after she completes school. Killicks is the first antagonist that Janie encounters in the story.

He is there for one purpose, to destroy Janie’s new sense of self-awareness. Janie does not love Logan nor does he love her. Janie is constantly looking for another horizon. She soon finds that horizon in Joe Starks. Joe appears in Janie’s front yard one day.

He says the ‘sweet’ things that Janie wants to her. Janie leaves Logan the next day, and therefor takes another step in her journey. Joe is a man who is concerned with little except power. He wants it, and he is going to use Janie to get it. He is cruel to Janie, and stomps out all of her free will. He builds his town of Eatonville as the newly elected mayor, crushing all in his path, making many enemies, including Janie, along the way.

Teacake could be Janie’s knight in shining armor. He comes to her aid. He wants her to do the things she desires. “Sing, dance, have fun with me,” seems to be what Teacake is offering her-a new direction. Teacake is a good ol’ boy.

He takes Janie to the Everglades. He lets her tell stories. However, she becomes what she set out to, only when she leaves Teacake. When she leaves Teacake Janie returns to Eatonville and the book ends where it began, as Janie finishes or dialogue with her friend Pheoby. When she walks back in to town, no longer ‘Ms. Mayor,’ as Joe was fond of calling her, Janie is truly her own person.

She is proud and sure of her self and her place under the sun. There are so many literary and social implications contained within Their Eyes Were Watching God, that many criticisms have been written on particular aspects of Hurston’s work. One of the best criticisms, though not nationally published, demonstrates some of the true experiences that Hurston incorporated into her work. Hurston conjures powerful images by giving voice to all her disparate elements while simultaneously respecting the autonomy of each. She conjures images from the kitchen, from the rural landscape of Florida, and from the elemental forces of nature. and tempers her conjuring with the objectivity of the scholar while freely adorning it with the poetic beauty of black vernacular (Conjured into Being, 1).

The unknown author of this passage gave an elegant style to the point that Hurston used strong sensory and oratory descriptions to make her text come alive. She tried to pull from all the areas of her personality to develop something on paper, the way she experienced it in life. She showed her philosophy on how a person should live their and get the most out of it. In her autobiography she wrote: I had stifled longing. I used to climb to the top of one of the huge chinaberry trees which guarded our front gate, and look out over the world.

The most interesting thing that I saw was the horizon.. It grew upon me that I ought to walk out to the horizon and see what the end of the world was like. (Dust Tracks on the Road, 36), (Conjured into Being, 1). Like Hurston, Janie longs for the horizon. She finds that she must struggle to overcome the many obstacles society throws in her path.

Hurston’s frequent use of emotional metaphors is part of the power contained in her fiction. She uses nature to convey her emotions. The sun is a major image in the texts of Hurston, and the passage above illustrates her fascination with light. Ever since her mother told her to ‘jump at de sun’ when she was a young girl, Hurston self-confidently refused any feelings of victimization She like her character Janie, was not ‘tragically colored.’ In her early short story, “Drenched in Light,” a wealthy white woman comments on Isis, the happy child of Hurston’s your: ‘I would like just a little of her sunshine to soak into my soul{spunk, 18}'(Conjured into Being, 4).” This is one of many examples of Hurston’s emphasis on emotional identification in her fiction. She also believed strongly in the elements of the earth and how they showed a symbol for each emotion.

“The elements of sun and fire cleanse and renew her. The wind, another elemental image, is first heard ‘picking at the pine trees.’ Pine trees, which Janie associates with young black men, like TeaCake, who are often seen ‘picking’ guitars” (Conjured into Being, 16). The wind is commonly associated with love, the soul, and femininity. She expresses her feminist philosophy with the description of women not as weak creatures needing to be cared for, but as strong capable peers. Bryan D.

Bourn, with help of Dr. Laura Zlogar of the Wisconsin-River Falls University discusses the role of Afro-American women in Their Eyes Were Watching God. He explores the role of African-American women in early 1900’s society by examining Hurston’s writing. Historically, the job of women in society is to care for the husband, the home, and the children. As a homemaker, it has been up to the woman to support the husband and care for the house; as a mother, the role was to care for the children and pass along cultural traditions and values to the children. These roles are no different in the African-American community, except for the fact that they are magnified to even larger proportions. The image of the mother in African-American culture is on of guidance, love, and wisdom..

Understanding the role of women in the African-American community starts by examining the roles.. in Afro-American literature. (Bourn, 1). Bourn goes on to state that the role of the mother-daughter relationship is expressed vividly in Their Eyes.. by the relationship that develops between Janie and her Grandmother.

“The strong relationship between mother and child is important.. the conflict between Janie’s idyllic view of marriage and her [grandmother’s] wish for her to marry into stability.. show how deep the respect and trust runs” (Bourn, 1). This excerpt tries to show the way that Janie, by marrying Logan, does what her grandmother wants out of respect. This is just one of the idealistic ways that Hurston expresses her opinions on society and life, not to exclude racial situations.

“Does Hurston ‘owe’ her race anything” (Hinton, 2)? As previously discussed, many of Hurston’s contemporaries criticized her lack of racial issues in her work. A good question to ask is “does Hurston’s fiction further racial equality?” (Hinton). Kip Hinton discusses Hurston’s approach to race relations in comparision to the common school of thought during her time. Alain Locke crticized Hurston for avoiding racial confrontations (Hinton, 2). All of Hurston’s critics said that she gave in to the stereotype of a typical African-American.

This in turn furthered the sense of inequality present in society. The critics who held this view, according to Hinton, subscribed this style of confrontation: “They believed only by preaching to the white reader about how wonderful blacks really were and how horrible discrimination was, could equality be achieved” (Hinton, 2). This argument is really a feeble one. Hinton claims that this argument lacks reason because “telling a racist he’s a racist won’t make him change” (Hinton, 2). If the reader can not read Hurston’s work and see that she cared deeply about equality, dealing with it in her special way, then they will never change.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you think of Zora Neale Hurston is that she was a literary genius. She may have been a woman, and an African-American, that is why someone wrote, “Zora would have been Zora even if she’d been an Eskimo” (Hinton, 3). That is why she was so clear on her definition of race relations. She believed that equality was achieved by showing the oppressor the wonderful things in life, not constantly pointing out the bad. Hurston put it best when she cried out, “at certain times I have no race, I AM ME.”.