Kanu – 7
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neal Hurston
By Bethany Maupin
“In the male-dominated society of the early 1900s, women had a certain place with specific duties to fulfill. Women were pretty to look at, but had no mind of their own. Thus, they didn’t need to make speeches, voice their opinion, or vote. Women could work in the home, on the farm, or in a store, but that was as close as they got to the world of the men. Outside of work, women did not join in the activities of the men. A woman’s opinions and beliefs were defined by her husband; each wife was a silent, supportive shadow. Into a society with this ingrained mindset stepped Zora Neale Hurston, leading the way for other women authors. Their Eyes Were Watching God introduced women to what they were missing, how much life was out there to be lived. It was written in a way that made women feel unsatisfied with their former life; made them long for an identity of their own.
The main theme of Hurston’s book, self-revelation, is evident in the primary conflict. Throughout the book, Janie Crawford, the main character, struggles against discrimination against women. In order to identify herself and her place in the world, she defies the societal expectations that define the women of her generation. Janie embodies independence and the freedom that comes with it. She prevails over traditional values, gender discrimination, and criticism to assert herself. Through three different marriages and many ups and downs, Janie finds her identity and experiences life on her own terms. Rejecting mediocrity, she refuses to be a farm animal defined by work or merely a pretty face defined by her husband. In the end, she finds a relationship in which she is loved and accepted as an equal. She finds someone who encourages instead of hindering her desire to define her own identity and what she wants from life. Hurston shows how Janie goes on to make her own place in...