Their Eyes Were Watching God opens with a focus on judgment, a powerful theme in the novel. As Janie returns to Eatonville after a lengthy absence, the porch sitters treat her especially harshly when talking about her. They make it their business to criticize her past actions and her present appearance, while ultimately judging her. Janie’s character is a strong, independent, free-spirited woman who strives to define herself, rather than allow others to determine who she is. Janie encounters many people who attempt to define her by her beauty or by her relationships with others. I thought it was odd, that the beginning chapter seems to be the only one in the present tense; the novel starts from the end and works backwards, providing an obscure view of Janie’s story. The narrative shifts in chapter 2 as Janie's history is revealed. As Hurston begins the description of the blossoming pear tree, the point of view shifts from Janie's voice to a third-person narrator who tells a story about Janie, rather than a story told by Janie. Hurston relies heavily upon dialect, typical Southern speech that she spells phonetically, in writing this story. The beginning of chapter five is similar to chapter four. Both begin with the fact that neither Joe Starks nor Logan Killicks speak in rhymes to Janie. This similarity foreshadows Janie's dissatisfaction with her relationship with Joe. Janie's problems with her first relationship are repeating themselves in her second. The symbol of the porch becomes fully personified in chapter six. Hurston claims that "the porch laughs", and that "the porch boils [in anger]." This literary device is used to point out the fact that there are no independent thinkers among the men on the porch. They all act with one consciousness, one set of beliefs, and no one is willing to act differently from the rest. [continues]
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