Their Eyes Were Watching God: Analysis of Symbols
Throughout the course of Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston, one learns about the struggles of marriage, love, identity and freedom through the character of Janie Mae Crawford, a young woman striving to find what she feels to be the perfect marriage. Hurston uses many symbols in this novel to describe the characters as well as the circumstances. Many of Janie’s experiences are based on some type of symbol that displays her outlook on different situations. Hurston shows symbolism though Janie’s head rags, nature and the pear tree and the hurricane.
The head rags in this novel symbolize conformity and control. Janie, being born with a mixed ancestral background, has the features of both a woman of color, as well as a Caucasian woman. This brings both positive and negative feedback from people who live around her and her three husbands. The one who, in a way, envies her hair the most is her second husband, Mayor Joe Starks. He is obsessed with power and dominance and he feels that Janie is only there to make him look superior as the mayor of Eatonville. When Janie is required to work at the store, Jody also forces her to tie up her hair in rags to keep her naturally long, Caucasian like textured hair. He uses the head rags to show Janie and the others around the store that he is still in control. He does not want anyone getting close enough to Janie that could influence her to leave him. Also, with Janie’s hair tied up around the store, her power is taken from her. Joe makes it clear to Janie that she would be nothing without him forcing her to stay and do whatever he asked of her; even if she did not agree with it. Janie is embarrassed by the head rags and does not feel that she can do anything to change the situation. Therefore, she submits herself to Joe’s power and control. No longer is Janie a woman with a voice. She does only what she is told. By wearing the head rags, she does...
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