1st year American Studies
Voice and Language in Their Eyes Were Watching God
In this paper I would like to focus on point of view and some aspects of stylistics in Zora Hurstons’ work Their Eyes Were Watching God. In particular, I will address the issue of narrative voice, the shifts between first person and third person, and I will also include in my analysis some aspects related to types of language variety and style variation. I have chosen this text because generally it is considered Zora Neale Hurston's most important piece of fiction, and because it is a proof of her ability to master language and voice. To illustrate my analysis I have selected some fragments which can be found at the end of the paper. I will make references to them whenever is necessary. The novel presents, in a combination of first and third person narration the story of Jamie Crawford and her three successive husbands. At several points in the text, Janie Crawford is prohibited from speaking, while at other points she chooses not to speak. Silence, then, is sometimes used as a tool of oppression and at other times as a tool of power. Even from the beginning of the novel it can be easily noticed the shifting narration; the viewpoint has moved from “every men” to “men” to “women” to “a woman” all these under the form of gossip of the front porch (see quote 1). While the earliest feminist interpretations put forward the idea that Janie achieves selfhood by claiming her voice, Barbara Johnson asserts that it is by accepting the inevitability of self-division that Janie gains the power of speech. She shows how Janie’s discovery that “she had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them”(Johnson: 50) has implications for Janie’s ability to speak. There are two paragraphs that highlight this aspect of inside and outside in Their Eyes Were Watching God (see quote 2). It can be noticed the...