Zora Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God as a Creation Story

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Zora Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God as a Creation Story

Zora Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is, among other things, a creation story. For creation stories are not simply myths about the historical origins of the universe and humankind but metaphors for individual maturation. Individual perception is, to a large extent, what constitutes the world. Hence, the individual is the source and embodiment of the world; Janie is, the narrator tells us, “the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop” (72). And Janie’s awakening, or maturation, represents not only a personal transformation, but the creation of a universe. As a child seeking meaning, Janie does not look forward to merely “growing up” but waits “for the world to
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Janie is, of course, drawn to the forbidden fruit and soon eats of it when she kisses Johnny Taylor over her grandmother’s fence. And just as Adam and Eve enter into life when they eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, so Janie’s “life commence[s] at Nanny’s gate” (10). Spying her kissing Johnny Taylor over the fence, Janie’s grandmother calls her into the house. Janie “half believe[s]” that her grandmother has not seen her, and her grandmother circuitously approaches the subject. Finally, confronting Janie, her grandmother “slap[s]” her “face violently” (13). The scene maintains a detailed parallel with Genesis. God, by definition, knows when Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit. Yet, like Janie’s grandmother, God temporarily feigns ignorance, first calling out to Adam as if unaware of his whereabouts, and then asking innocently how Adam came to know he was naked. And Adam, like Janie, apparently believes, or half believes, that God does not know he has eaten of the fruit. And finally, just as Janie’s grandmother punishes Janie by slapping her and forcing her to marry Logan Killicks, so
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