Junior American Literature 3rd Period
22 January 2015 “Their Eyes were Watching God”, written by Zora Neale Hurston, is a semiautobiographical novel where the protagonist, Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life in the form of flashback. Growing up in a time of racial intolerance, Janie learns the struggle of being a black woman trying to find love during the Jim Crow Era. Through her ups and downs, we see Janie transform into the strong and independent woman seen at the beginning of the book.
As she recounts her life, images of nature are used by Hurston to explain certain feelings Janie experiences and foreshadow events. Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes were Watching God” uses imagery of nature, such as the pear tree, the horizon, and the hurricane, to show readers the amount of control one has over their lives in relation to God himself.
Janie’s view on the pear tree and her constant allusion to it, represent her sexuality and the source of her longing for true love. While “stretched on her back… soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees” , she realizes her version of true love (Hurston 1011). The “visiting bees” represent the introduction of another entity that allows for true love to happen only if that new entity and the original entity are in perfect harmony (Hurston 1011). She sees this and recognizes the immense “passion” between the two entities. Janie believed that “this was ... marriage” (Husrton 1011). She saw intimacy and and a sort of “sexual harmony” between the pear tree and the bee. This optimistic vision of love, is unfortunately laid to rest during her first
marriage, in which Logan Killicks “desecrat[ed] [her] pear tree” due to the marriage being arranged by Nanny (Hurston 14). In Janie’s eyes, marrying someone out of security, instead of love, was outright repulsive, unnatural, and slaughtered her idealized version of love. The pear tree metaphor does not simply represent oppression put on Janie by the patriarchal society surrounding Janie . When Tea Cake shows up, Janie is almost immediately infatuated with him because Janie sees him as the bee to her blossoming pear tree. He is the one that reignited the ability for Janie to love and lust. Tea Cake and Janie are in the same type of relationship as the bee and the pear tree. Tea Cake is the “visiting bee” to Janie’s pear tree. This makes Tea Cake,
Janie’s one true love.
The horizon represents all things that will happen in peoples lives. The novel is starts off by saying that “ships on the distance (horizon) have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon…” (Hurston 1). By saying this,
Hurston foreshadows one of the biggest themes throughout the entire novel. She foreshadows that humans are not in control of their lives. Instead, nature gives all people a course that they follow indefinitely throughout their short lives. From a human’s point of view, the horizon represents mystery and possibility. For Janie, the horizon symbolizes mystery and possibility as well as a chance at a better life. After her second marriage ended, Janie realizes that “Nanny had taken … the horizon … and pinched it into… a thing she could tie [around] her granddaughters neck” (Hurston 89). Janie expresses her hatred of her Nanny due to the fact that he “choked” her out of a happy start to life. Instead, Nanny caused Janie turmoil by making her have to find ways into a better life through others. The reason she married Joe so quickly is that he was an immediate way out of the hell she had with Logan. Janie saw Joe as