Rhetorical Analysis Essay for Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of one black woman’s attempt to realize her dreams and to achieve happiness in her life. Throughout the book, the reader follows Janie Woods as she travels from one man to the next and from one town to the next in search of happiness, freedom, and love. Janie abandons her first husband and the oppressive, conventional life that she lives with him in order to pursue a more stimulating, adventurous, and exciting one with Jody Sparks. With his big dreams for the future and his plans to build an “all-colored” town, Jody seems at first to

embody the very things that Janie is seeking in life, but he very quickly turns out to be as

oppressive and restrictive as Janie’s first husband. When he dies, however, both Janie and the reader become acquainted with Tea Cake, a relatively poor yet nonetheless charming man who professes his love to Janie and asks her to run away with him to the Everglades. Janie does, and it becomes clear that Tea Cake and Janie are the perfect fit. With Tea Cake, Janie is happier than she has ever been, and it seems that she will finally achieve her dreams. When Tea Cake becomes infected with rabies and shoots at Janie with a gun, however, Janie is forced to kill him in a devastating twist of plot. Afterwards, Janie is thrown into jail and then tried by jury in order to decide if she will be convicted of murdering Tea Cake. If she is convicted, her life and her quest for happiness and the pursuit of her dreams will be destroyed. If she is allowed to go free, she can continue her life and her quest for happiness. In this pivotal courthouse scene, the climax of the story of Janie’s struggle to achieve happiness and the deciding moment of her fate, Zora Neale Hurston uses figurative language, varied sentence structure, and a unique, circular kind of organization of the passage in order to build tension and suspense and to create a vivid image of the courthouse and of the events of the trial for the reader.

The passage begins with a series of very strong and powerful images of the black people in the courthouse, who are standing in the back “Packed tight like a case of celery.” This simile produces the feeling that these people are strong, standing strong and straight and tall. They are stern, unmoving and unbending, and they are all “against her.” Hurston emphasizes this idea - the idea that the blacks are all against Janie - by repeating the phrase twice. The first time, there is no idea attached to the phrase other than the idea that Janie is alone, that this solid, tightly-packed celery-wall of her people has disowned her, is standing against her. The second time she repeats the phrase, however, Hurston says in clear hyperbole, “so many were there against her that a light slap from each one of them would have beat her to death.” This statement brings a new dimension to the blacks’ angry, stem demeanor. Not only are they large in number and stern and disapproving of Janie, but, moreover, they feel violent towards her. Janie is a target, the reader discovers in the following sentence, for the black people’s “dirty thoughts” which “pelt” her. Janie is their prey, and they are armed with the “weapons” of their tongues. These weapons are “cocked and loaded,” ready to fire at any moment. With this metaphor, which indirectly compares the people’s tongues to guns, Hurston not only continues to communicate the very real and intense hostility that the blacks are feeling towards Janie but also introduces another sort of dimension to the atmosphere she is describing: tension. The image of a cocked and loaded gun just waiting for the trigger to be pulled and the explosion to occur creates a very extreme mood – one of immense tension, pressure, and apprehension. All of the people, however, are cold and silent. Although their tongues are cocked, they have not exploded yet; although they are ready to...
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