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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston Essay

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Henry David Thoreau once said, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” This excerpt of wisdom is prevalent in the journey of Janie Mae Crawford, the protagonist in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie spends the entirety of the novel searching for love and companionship, and on the way she discovers her truest self. When she finally determines her own identity, she realizes that she is a strong, independent woman of color who can defy the stereotypical standards placed upon women in the early 1900s. Although she initially allowed others to place restrictions on her based on her gender and race, she overcame these boundaries and understood that she did not have to conform to the expectations of others. The most apparent theme of this novel portrays that in order to for one to understand themselves in the realest and most raw fashion, they must encounter a number of instances that shape who they are as an individual.
The initial instance in which Janie encounters the idea of love and begins her journey toward self-realization is when she is lying beneath a pear tree as a sixteen-year-old in Nanny’s back yard and receives her first kiss from a boy named Johnny Taylor. On that afternoon, Janie lied on the ground observing the act of pollination between a bee and a flower on the pear tree, igniting her sexual curiosity. This sexual curiosity that she experiences is not vulgar, but rather intimate. The narrator displays Janie’s sexual perception of the pollination by describing the acceptance of the pollen from the bee as “the thousand sister-calyxes arch[ing] to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothin...


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...ed for the worse, eventually leading up to Janie killing Tea Cake in self-defense. Janie experienced true grief and guilt for Tea Cake’s death, unlike the forced grief she showed everyone in Eatonville when Jody died. This grief, along with the disloyalty of her former friends during trial, makes Janie realize that she can survive on her own; Tea Cake’s death completes Janie’s journey to self-discovery.
Life experiences—whether they are positive or negative—mold one’s unfiltered, most genuine self. The more experience one gains in their lifetime, the more growth this inner self will undergo. The things that Janie endured during the course of the novel is more than what most people will go through in a lifetime. Even though Janie had many trials and tribulations in Their Eyes Were Watching God, they just made her a stronger, more independent, self-aware woman.


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