Their Eyes Were Watching God

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In one way or another, every person has felt repressed at some stage during their lives. Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story about one woman's quest to free herself from repression and explore her own identity; this is the story of Janie Crawford and her journey for self-knowledge and fulfillment.  Janie transforms many times as she undergoes the process of self-discovery as she changes through her experiences with three completely different men. Her marriages serve as stepping-stones in her search for her true self, and she becomes independent and powerful by overcoming her fears and learning to speak in her own, unique voice. Zora Neale Hurston effectively shows Janie's transformation throughout the book by means of language and her development of Janie's voice through the different stages of her life. Her use of free indirect discourse exemplifies Janie's power in overcoming oppression, realizing her own potential, and emerging as an individual. Throughout the novel, Hurston's use of the black dialect in the form of quoted text, and Standard English in the form of third person unquoted text, creates a seamless, fluid narration which provides insight into Janie's soul on two levels.  Through the combination of these two languages, Hurston is able to effectively express Janie's inner and outer voices, which become stronger throughout the novel, as she develops through a series of relationships and acquires greater self-identity. Before Janie's marriages, she lacks a sense of identity, which Hurston reveals early in the novel.  The scene where she is shown a photograph of her and with "white family" symbolizes her lack of self-knowledge - she does not even recognize herself in the picture, because she does not even know she is black.  Janie's first movement toward self-awareness occurs shortly thereafter, when she becomes fascinated by the blooming of leaf buds under the pear tree. Here, Hurston uses the third-person narrative in a speaker's voice that invites the reader into Janie's soul.  For example, the narrative voice portraying the "pear tree" incident seems to have a nature somewhat intimate to Janie's: the rose of the world was breathing out smell.  It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep.  It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her consciousness. (24). Hurston brilliantly combines an intimate voice with the omniscience of a third-person narrator for a vivid denotation of the beginning of Janie's maturity and the initial stage in her development as a woman; she creates a powerful description of a young girl's sexual awakening. However, just as Janie is emerging as an individual and as a woman, her self-discovery is crippled by Nanny's fear of this maturity.  Nanny desires to marry Janie off as soon as possible, so that she is protected in a financially secure, yet loveless, marriage so that Nanny passes on with the assurance that Janie is provided for and is materially taken care of.  Therefore, she arranges for Janie to marry Logan Killicks, a wealthy landowner, who becomes rude and possessive, and begins treating Janie like an object.  This oppressive relationship hinders Janie's quest for self-knowledge; her images of love and marriage as she envisioned under the beautiful blossoming pear tree are dashed by the harsh realities of her loveless marriage to Logan.  Janie's first marriage and its failure are beginning stages of her seach for self-fulfillment; her voice and identity are still undefined, and she does not progress in her self-development until she becomes free of Logan's restraint. Both the black vernacular and the third-person narrative are used to describe Janie's feelings about her marriage to Logan and her decision to break free of him. First, we learn of Janie's disillusionment about her prearranged marriage from the dialogue between Janie and Nanny when Janie goes to her...
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