“Their Eyes Were Watching God”
“Liberty” was given to Americans in 1789; “liberty” was given to slaves in 1865; “liberty” was given to women in 1919… right? Gallons of blood and vials of tears were shed before any of these milestones were overcome, and although all of these accomplishments are highly commendable, they are but the bedrocks for revolutions to continue. These neo-revolutions sometimes prove to be more dramatic and equally complex as their progenitors. In “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Zora Neale Hurston vividly captures the “liberation” of Janie, an idealist femme fatale born in the turn-of-century who, although a freewoman, is never quite independent to choose who she will become.
After Jody Starks, Janie’s second husband, dies, Janie feels relief. She is relieved of the materialistic and chauvinistic pursuits of her defunct husband, and is now free to do as she pleases. In solemn but straightforward retaliation, Janie burns “every one of her head rags” that Jody incarcerated her sumptuous hair with, and proudly lets her hair down for the rest of the novel. At this point, Hurston introduces a paradox befuddling Janie: after achieving peace with Jody’s death, why is Janie (symbolized by Hurston as the “House”) “[creaking and crying] all night under the weight of lonesomeness”? This statement is also at odds with Janie’s apparent hatred of her grandmother, who wanted Janie to live a life of comfort and stability after suffering the hardships of slavery herself, since Janie now unconsciously desires (yet) another husband. Hurston depicts Janie’s scintillating pride and selfishness as she prepares “for her great journey… in search of people… that she should find them and they find her”.
We’re given a deeper introspection into Janie’s pride when she realizes that “she had found a jewel down inside herself and she had wanted to walk where people could see her gleam it around”. Although it is fair to assume that everyone is unique and radiant as...
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