Their Eyes Were Watching God Analysis

1923 Words8 Pages
Hurston's “Their Eyes Were Watching God” presents several themes such as speech and silence, love and marriage, and finally gender roles. Zora Neale Hurston does an outstanding job of instituting what men such as Joe Starks believed were the standard roles for the African American female. Hurston pertinently described Janie through her relationship with Joe, the metaphoric value of the mule, and her dialogue as a woman of strength, not concerned with the ideals of her white female counterparts, sitting up on a high chair and overlooking the world. Janie desired a greater purpose.

In Hurston's “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, men and women inhabit separate roles. Not only are the women portrayed as the more fragile sex, Hurston essentially defines them by their relationships to and with the men. Thus, marriage is paramount in this story. The message sent here is that women can and do only obtain power through marrying powerful or, at least, motivated men. By the use of tradition, women are limited to the confines of positions of piteousness, passiveness, domesticity, and of course as sexual objectivity. The men consistently silence the women's voices, limit their actions with proprietary notions and insult their appearance and sexuality. In contrasts, when the women exhibit any traditionally male characteristics such as authority, intelligence or ambition, men deem them as unattractive and masculine. The male characters set out to prove to their peers that they are masculine by showing their wives who is in charge. This was not always due to personal desire, but also by society and at large as well as environmental pressures.

The author immediately introduces the female perspective. In “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Hurston celebrates Janie as an artist that enriches Eatonville and details her self-discovery. Without delay, on first page of the book, Hurston substantiates the contrast between men and women by initiating Janie's quest to reach fruition of her own dreams and presaging the female quest theme throughout the remainder of the novel. "Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things
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