Symbolism in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Their Eyes Were Watching God is a powerful and motivating literary work. Chronicling a young woman's journey through life, the novel speaks to not only women, but all people who experience strife in their lifetimes. A novel filled with inner and outer struggles, and having the strength to overcome those hardships, author Zora Neale Hurston constructs a novel not just for the common-man, but for the every-man. Throughout the novel, Hurston's mix of blatant and obscure symbolism to weave her tale, add to the novel's powerful impact.

The most prominent symbol in the novel may not be the most out rightly obvious one: Janie's journey. As she ventures from Eatonville, to the marshes of Florida and back to Eatonville again in a search for "spiritual fulfillment", her journey is a self-centered one. At each location Janie experiences a different aspect of life. Each situation and location offers and new sense of growth for Janie to experience and struggles to overcome. Her journey symbolizes a personal, inner spiritual growth and emotional growth that cannot be gained but through these experiences. Her endeavors help her to realize things about love, marriage, independence, being a woman in society, being a black woman in society, life, and death. Her travels bring Janie "full circle at the beginning and end" of the novel, as Janie returns to Eatonville to retell her story to her friend Pheoby. She has grown enough to realize that her tale is one of triumph and pride.

Janie's growth is also due to marriage; not just a single marriage, but three. Her first marriage is to a black farmer named Logan Killicks, arranged by her grandmother in order to help Janie be well taken care of in life. This marriage symbolizes Janie's true desire to have "a marriage based on love", which her marriage to Logan clearly is not. It offers her simply a protective affection, much like that of the relationship she shared with her grandmother. While he treats her like the property he owns,...
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