Their Eyes Were Watching God: An Epic Search
In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston shows how the lives of American women changed in the early 20th century. Zora Neale Hurston creates a character in her own likeness in her masterpiece, Their Eyes Were Watching God. By presenting Janie's search for identity, from her childbirth with Nanny to the death of Tea Cake, Hurston shows what a free southern black women might have experienced in the early decades of the century. To the racial ties that would affect Janie all the way through this life long search.
Janie's search for identity actually started long before she was born. Because Janie's search is her family's search. Nanny and Janie's mom gave Janie a reason to search. They were always held back by their owners, and their owners took advantage of them, and raped them. They raped them of their identity. Nanny signifies to evade the realities of her life and the life of Janie. When Nanny says, "Thank yuh, Massa Jesus," she is illustrating that although she is no longer a slave, the slave consciousness has caused her to view even her relationship with the deity about slave and master. This makes Janie the leader of her family's search. However Nanny realized this, and when she saw that Janie was old enough for love she had her married. This guaranteed that Janie would not continue a loss of identity.
Even as a young girl, living in the materialistic world of her Nanny and her first husband, Logan Killicks, Janie chooses to listen to "the words of the trees and the wind" (23-24). This is the first evidence of her searching beyond her boring life. This then leads to her everyday life left empty, because she is always looking farther than where she is at the time. So day by day she gets more worked up into leaving Logan, and searching for love. When she leaves Logan to run off with Joe, she thinks to herself, "Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would...
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