Their Eyes Were Watching God

Best Essays
15 October 2012
A Prospectus: Reading Hurtson’s Their Eyes Were Watching God from a Psychoanalytical Perspective Psychoanalytic theory has shown that infants start identifying themselves and recognize that they are individuals, separate from their mothers, at six months of age. At that age, the individuals’ own identity starts to form as they relate their reflection in the mirror to their own self. This is when texts such as Their Eyes Were Watching God become relevant. The protagonist, Janie Crawford, struggles to construct her own identity and experiences a severe sense of loss in her childhood. Meanwhile, Janie recognizes her African American identity through her projection in the picture in respect to Lacan’s Mirror Stage. The projection of Janie’s identity in the picture as a child not only makes her realize her black origin, but also identify her sexuality as she can only, initially, identify her dress and her hair. This delayed self-recognition disrupts Janie emotionally and explains her inability to maintain a successful marriage throughout the novel. Freud’s psychoanalysis suggests that any disruption in one of the stages of development will negatively result in failure in one or more of the individual’s aspect of life (Bertens 158), which is evident in the novel. Even though Janie goes through the stages of development depicted in both Lacan and Freud’s theories, Janie starts going through these stages later in her childhood, at six years old. According to Lacan’s Mirror Stage (2010), in the first six months, the infant does not distinguish his own self from that of his parents or even the world around him. However, they can only identify that the images in the mirror, or any other projection, like the picture in Janie’s case, when they are about eighteen months old. This delay in Janie’s development is related to the social and familial issues that Janie has experienced in her childhood. The first encounter of the infant with the self in



Bibliography: Ashmawi, Yvonne M. "Janie 's Tea Cake: Sinner, Saint, or Merely Mortal?" Explicator. 67.3 (2009): 203-206. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Awkward, Michael. New Essays on Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1. 1. New York: Campridge UP, 1990. Bealer, Tracy L Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics. London and New York: Taylor & Francis, 2008. Burrows, Stuart. “You Heard Her, You Ain 't Blind": Seeing What 's Said in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction. 34.3 (2001): 434-4. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Clarke, Deborah. “The Porch Couldn’t Talk for Looking: Voice and Vision in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” African American Review. 35.4 (2001): 599-614. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. Dilbeck, Keiko Garcia, John L. "Freud 's Psychosexual Stage Conception: A Developmental Metaphor For Counselors." Journal Of Counseling & Development 73.5 (1995): 498-502. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. Haurykiewicz, Julie A. "From Mules to Muliebrity: Speech and Silence in Their Eyes Were Watching God." 29.2 (1997): 45-61. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Hinnov, Emily M. “Modernist visions of "self" within community in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their eyes were watching God. Selinsgrove, NY: Susquehanna UP, 2009. Print. Ikard, David. "Ruthless Individuality And The Other(ed) Black Women In Zora Neale Hurtson 's Their Eyes Were Watching God." CLA Journal. 53.1 (2009): 1-22. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Kaplan, Carla. "The Erotics of Talk: `That oldest human longing ' in Their Eyes Were Watching God." American Literature. 67.1 (1995): 115-143. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Lacan, Jacques. “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Peter Simon. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. 1163-1169. Print. Lancaster, Iris M Marquis, Margaret. " ‘When de Notion Strikes Me’: Body Image, Food, and Desire in Their Eyes Were Watching God." Southern Literary Journal. 35.2 (2003): 79-88. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Matos Ayala, Jennifer. A Feeling Or Something More: Love as a Liberating Force in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Sula and The Women of Brewster Place. U of Puerto Rico, 2011. Mayaguez, Puerto Rico: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. McNulty, Tracy. "Demanding The Impossible: Desire And Social Change." Differences: A Journal Of Feminist Cultural Studies 20.1 (2009): 1-39. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. Meisenhelder, Susan. Hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick : race and gender in the work of Zora Neale Hurston. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1999. Print. Minnick, Lisa C. "Community in Conflict: Saying and Doing in Their Eyes Were Watching God." Dialect and Dichotomy: Literary Representations of African American Speech. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2004. Print. Pipes, Candice Linette. It 's Time to Tell: Abuse, Resistance and Recovery in Black Women 's Literature. The Ohio State U, 2010. Ohio: ProQuest Dissertations & These. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. Plant, Deborah G. "The Inside Light" : New Critical Essays on Zora Neale Hurston.” Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010. Print. Racine, Maria J. "Voice And Interiority In Zora Neale Hurston 's Their Eyes Were Watching God." African American Review. 28.2 (1994): 283. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. Ramsey, WilliamM. "The Compelling Ambivalence of Zora Neale Hurston 's Their Eyes Were Watching God." Southern Literary Journal. 27.1 (1994): 36-51. Web. 30 Sep. 2012. Sullivan, Margaret Judith. “Profane and Sacred Imagery in Hurston 's Janie of Their Eyes Were Watching God and Marshall 's Avey of Praisesong for the Widow". Ethnic News Watch. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. Vasseleu, Cathryn. "The Face Before The Mirror-Stage." Hypatia 6.3 (1991): 140-155. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Better Essays

    Their Eyes Were Watching God

    • 4160 Words
    • 17 Pages

    Their Eyes Were Watching God Prepared Reading Section A: Paragraph Responses Race An important assertion that shows up multiple times throughout the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is race. Throughout the story there was constant racial prejudice coming from both, the African American race and the Whites. A quote that supports this assertion is, “Ah thought you would ‘preciate good treatment. Thought Ah’d take and make somethin’ outa yuh. You think youse white folks by de way you act,” (Hurston…

    • 4160 Words
    • 17 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Their Eyes Were Watching God

    • 2865 Words
    • 12 Pages

    and Power "De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see." --Nanny, Their Eyes Were Watching God 14 This quote establishes the novel's unusual perspective on gender difference. It's the story of a woman's struggle with power. During this time, African American women were looked upon as the mules of the world, because the men were considered the "Gods." Society believed that since they were the men of their households, whatever they said was the way it went. The novel set the tone…

    • 2865 Words
    • 12 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    convey love in Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. The strongest device is symbolism. Another book that is also relatable to this style is Romeo and Juliet. Hurston’s novel along with Shakespeare’s both use smaller methods to describe the larger device. Romeo and Juliet also has a lot of similarities to Their Eyes Were Watching God, through the symbolism of love. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet found her only love in her only hate, and Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God found she hated…

    • 776 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Jacob Frisbee Mr. Ammer English II High Honors August 25, 2014 Happy Endings Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston has a happy ending Weldon describes. Janie in the end reconciliates and reassess herself spiritually. When Janie’s final husband of this book dies she really gets love. All of what she’s been through has really taught her what love really is. She says, “Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different…

    • 340 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Their Eyes Were Watching God

    • 3170 Words
    • 13 Pages

    Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, shows the development of an African-American woman living in the 1920s and 1930s as she searches for her true identity. Janie was a half-white, half-black girl growing up in Florida in the early 1930 's, living with her grandmother, struggling to find her place in life. Janie’s transformation throughout the book shows a change through language and the development of Janie’s voice through the different stages of her life. Their Eyes Were Watching God is a narrative…

    • 3170 Words
    • 13 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Their Eyes Were Watching God In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Houston reveals the injustice of life as an African-American female during the early 20th century. Through narration, Houston sheds light upon the ignorance and biased perceptions in the African-American society that help to mold expectations for individuals while also placing limits upon them. Expressing hatred amongst their own elevates the telling of the novels bildungsroman and a woman’s strong desire and belief in her…

    • 581 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Development of a Character with the Use of Figurative Language Throughout the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, author Zora Neale Hurston is able to go into great detail using various forms of figurative language. With the use of assorted metaphors and symbols, she is able to express the feelings and emotions of Janie, the main character. Zora Neale Hurston uses figurative language in Their Eyes Were Watching God to develop Janie’s character and love life over time. Janie’s hair is used as a symbol…

    • 641 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    life. Zora Neale Hurston chooses to define Janie not by what is wrong in her life, but by what is good in it. Janie changes a lot from the beginning to the end of Their Eyes Were Watching God, but the imagery in her life always conjures positive ideas in the mind of the reader. <br> <br>Janie's life begins under the watchful eye of her grandmother. Her grandmother has given up her own happiness to raise Janie and her mother. Right away, it is obvious that Janie's life is going to be different than…

    • 1030 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    their eyes were watching god

    • 74095 Words
    • 241 Pages

    Z O R A N E A L E H U R S T O N Their Eyes Were Watching God With a Foreword by Edwidge Danticat To Henry Allen Moe Contents E-Book Extra Janie’s Great Journey: A Reading Group Guide Acknowledgments Foreword by Edwidge Danticat Foreword by Mary Helen Washington Their Eyes Were Watching God 1 1 Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. 2 Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf… 3 There are years that ask questions and years that answer. 4 Long before…

    • 74095 Words
    • 241 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    just let Tea Cake hit her? That women needs to stand up for herself. 19. Motor Boat is a odd name for a character 20. “Their eyes were watching God”: the people watching the storm, looking up to God for comfort through a horrible time 21. Tea Cake gets bitten in the check by a dog 22. Janie shot Tea Cake?! Wow. She has some guts! However, I’d probably do the same if I were in her position. 23. R.I.P. Tea Cake 24. She plants seeds to remember him 25. Tea Cake showed Janie the horizon that she…

    • 335 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays