Essay - Their Eyes Were Watching God

1510 Words Nov 9th, 2009 7 Pages
Essay – Their Eyes Were Watching God Author Zora Neale Hurston weaves many powerful symbols into her acclaimed novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston’s use of symbols enhances the reader’s understanding of the trials and tribulations along the road of self discovery for the story’s main character, Janie. Of the many symbols used throughout the novel, one in particular - Janie’s hair - is subtle yet striking as it gives us insight into Janie’s perceived social status, oppression, self identity, and her eventual independence through her self identity as a woman despite the social norms of the time period.

From the very beginning of the book, Janie’s long, straight, flowing black hair causes a stir among the “porch talkers” of the
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Janie) in a sexual manner. It also shows how jealous Joe was of Janie and her youthfulness, as Jody was 10 years her senior. The head rag “irked her endlessly” (55), however she submits to Jody’s control. With Joe Janie must hide her real self, being what her husband wishes her to be, presenting a façade to the outside world of whom they think she should be, not who she really wants to be.

Janie’s outward appearance and her inward thoughts contrast following Joe’s death. She finally frees herself from his control only after he dies as she, “…tore off the kerchief…and let down her plentiful hair” (87). In freeing her hair, Janie begins to free herself from others’ control and social norms. However, she chooses to keep it tied up until after Jody’s funeral in order to keep appearances that she is grieving his passing in front of the townspeople. However, on the inside, Janie doesn’t really feel any sorrow and “sent her face to Joe’s funeral, and herself went rollicking with the springtime across the world” (88). It is only after Joe’s elaborate funeral that Janie shows her first act of freedom by burning “every one of her head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging well below her waist” (89). She chose to let her hair be free from his domination, thus freeing herself from him overall and allowing herself to move onto the next journey in her life.

Janie’s eventual third husband, Tea

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