Symbols in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Symbols in Their Eyes Were Watching God
In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, many different symbols are used to express Janie’s longing for love and acceptance. Each symbol is related to the condition of Janie’s life at that time. Janie is very beautiful and innocent to the ways of men and sexuality. Janie has her first sexual feelings one afternoon beneath a pear tree. She sees a “bee sinking into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister calyxes arch to meet the love embrace (Hurston 11)” and she comments on how happy the tree must be to have such a feeling. Janie believes she is privy to a “revelation (Hurston 11)” and she thinks “So this [is] a marriage (Hurston 11)!” The pear tree and the bee working together in harmony represent new love and desire for Janie. She realizes she has neither in her life but she thinks about the possibilities for the future and she “[feels] a pain remorseless sweet that [leaves] limp and languid (Hurston 11).”

Janie has been sheltered her whole life and is seeking to feel some of what she saw with the pear tree and the bee. She asks herself “where are the singing bees for [me] (Hurston 11)?” Not being able to come up with an answer Janie goes to the “front gate… waiting for the world to be made (Hurston 11).” Janie sees Johnny Taylor and desire from what she sees wells up in her and she kisses him over the gate. The inside of the gate for Janie represents restriction and separation. Janie’s first kiss is with Johnny in the confines of her yard. Janie’s grandmother, Nanny, sees the kiss and forces Janie to marry Logan Killicks. The gate also represents seeking for Janie. After her marriage fails, Janie “begins to stand by the gate and expect things (Hurston 25).” It is at this gate that she meets Joe “Jody” Stark. Janie leaves “out of the front gate and turned south (Hurston 32)” as she leaves Logan for Joe “the change was bound to do her good (Hurston 32).”

Janie marries Joe Stark and...
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