A Women's Search for Identity in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

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“It’s uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there…” (Hurston 192). The theme of identity can be seen throughout Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, of a story of a women’s journey for self-identification. Through symbolic imagery, such as the pear tree, Janie’s hair, and the horizon, Hurston ultimately shows a women’s quest for her identity.
As a young teenager, Janie becomes infatuated with the idea of an idealistic romance: “She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace…So this was a marriage!” (Hurston 11). This image represents Janie’s budding sexuality; Janie wants to find the love and affection from a man, that the bees share with
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One example is when Jody becomes the mayor of Eatonville. The town members want Janie to deliver a speech for the occasion, but Jody denies her this right because “she’s uh woman and her place is in de home” (Hurston 43). Another example of how Jody deprives Janie of her identity is when he forces her to tie up her hair: “Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it…” (Hurston 55). Instead of telling her his feelings he controls her, which causes her spirit to die along with her identity. Janie is finally free from Jody once he passes away which represents her strength. “She tore off the kerchief…let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, and the glory was there” (Hurston 87). The weight, the length, and the glory represent the freedom Janie now has from Joe, who has robbed her of her sexuality for 20 years by forcing her to wear the dingy head garments. After Joe’s funeral, Janie burns every head rag she owns as final act liberation, representing the continuation of her quest for her unknown.
The horizon is the final symbol Hurston uses to show Janie’s quest for identity, which can be seen throughout the entire novel. Her curiosity for the quest sparks from her over-bearing grandmother, Nanny, who believes marriage is for security and social
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