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Criticism By Bethany Maupin “In the male-dominated society of the early 1900s, women had a certain place with specific duties to fulfill. Women were pretty to look at, but had no mind of their own. Thus, they didn’t need to make speeches, voice their opinion, or vote. Women could work in the home, on the farm, or in a store, but that was as close as they got to the world of the men. Outside of work, women did not join in the activities of the men. A woman’s opinions and beliefs were defined by her husband; each wife was a silent, supportive shadow.
Into a society with this ingrained mindset stepped Zora Neale Hurston, leading the way for other women authors. Their Eyes Were Watching God introduced women to what they were missing, how much life was out there to be lived. It was written in a way that made women feel unsatisfied with their former life; made them long for an identity of their own. The main theme of Hurston’s book, self-revelation, is evident in the primary conflict. Throughout the book, Janie Crawford, the main character, struggles against discrimination against women.
In order to identify herself and her place in the world, she defies the societal expectations that define the women of her generation. Janie embodies independence and the freedom that comes with it. She prevails over traditional values, gender discrimination, and criticism to assert herself. Through three different marriages and many ups and downs, Janie finds her identity and experiences life on her own terms. Rejecting mediocrity, she refuses to be a farm animal defined by work or merely a pretty face defined by her husband. In the end, she finds a relationship in which she is loved and accepted as an equal.
She finds someone who encourages instead of hindering her desire to define her own identity and what she wants from life. Hurston shows how Janie goes on to make her own place in society, marriage, and the workplace. After meeting one obstacle after the next, Janie gains the independence to realize in herself that person she has been searching for all along. Over the course of the novel, Hurston tells of Janie’s journey from the traditional views of the grandmother who raised her to an independent woman making her own life rules. Janie is a very dynamic character, who lives a very turbulent life full of self-revelation.
Hurston effectively uses symbols throughout her story to illustrate Janie’s self-development. A simple thing, like the way Janie wears her hair, is turned into an expression of her independence. Other symbols, such as playing checkers and wearing overalls, signify Janie’s entrance into male-dominated society. Hurston makes it clear that women do not need to imitate men in order to be independent simply that they deserve to choose for themselves what they can and cannot do. In the end, Janie makes the choice to live for herself rather than die for love, once again showing that she was not dependent upon others.
Janie points the way for the pioneers of the female frontier. She gives hope and courage to all who are fearful of not finding themselves. Even though many criticized her, Janie only pitied them because they were missing out on a life and love such as her own. This inspirational book shows the worth in the struggles and hardships that help each woman to discover who they are meant to be. It is worth the criticism and skepticism to search for the relationship that allows identity as an individual as well as a couple.
All women deserve equal status with men in the society that they all live in. Hurston offers valuable life lessons in courage, independence, and love. All in all, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a work full of truth as well as a work of art to be enjoyed by all. ” Method of Characterization: Point of View Third Person Omniscient In the beginning of the book, the narrator is clearly omniscient because she gives insight into the thoughts of Pheoby, Janie, and the Eatonville women sitting on their porches who were very gossipy. Chapters 2-20 are all stories Janie is telling to Pheoby.
Janie tells a flashback of a life story told by the omniscient narrator. Author’s Tone: In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the tone is mostly compassionate, sympathetic, and having tender feelings. The African American culture is very much focused on by the author. The author, Hurston, uses a plethora of conversations between friends and neighbors that use their cultural dialect. The book is more realistic, down-to-earth, and life-like because of the way Hurston wrote the book and it makes it more special. Imagery “This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly.
But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store” Page 55 Janie was unhappy & annoyed because she was not allowed to let down her gorgeous hair in the store. “Done took to high heel slippers and a ten dollar hat! Looking like some young girl, always in blue because Tea Cake told her to wear it. Poor Joe Starks. Bet he turns in his grave every day. ” Page 110 Janie was spoiled by Tea Cake and bought her expensive items. He did anything for her. Even though Joe is dead, he must be really mad at Janie and most likely despises Tea Cake. Corpses were not just found in wrecked houses. They were under houses, tangled in shrubbery, floating in water, hanging in trees, drifting under wreckage. ” Page 170 Bodies were taken and thrown everywhere during a devastating and horrifying hurricane.
There were dead bodies laying around everywhere in the muck. Diction “the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume,” Page 2 This is a very significant description of Janie’s hair, which is one of the most important symbols of the novel. Mind- pictures brought feelings, and feelings dragged out dramas from the hollows of her heart. ” Page 16 Nanny knows who things went wrong for Janie in the past so she remembers that and tries not to have the same mistakes happen. This is a big part of the novel. “The fact that the thought pictures were always crayon enlargements of life made it even nicer to listen. ” Page 51 When Janie talks with others and listens to stories it makes her life seem a lot better. It makes things easier and idealizes things.
Significant Quote With Explanation: “The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. ” This quote from Chapter 18 shows the big problem of the novel, as Janie, Tea Cake, and Motor Boat seek refuge from the destructive hurricane outside.