Their Eyes Were Watching God: the Use of Clothing
by Zora Neale Hurston
In the novel Their Eyes were watching God Zora Neale Hurston portrays a woman named Janie's search for love and freedom. Janie, throughout the novel, bounces through three different marriages, with a brief stint at being a widow in between. Throughout these episodes, Hurston uses Janie`s clothing as a visual bookmark of where Janie is in her search for true love and how she is being influenced by those around her.
Janie's first article of clothing is an apron that she wears while married to
Logan Killiks as a hard working sixteen year old. Logan, who Janie describes as looking like "an `ol skullhead in de grave yard," (pg. 13) marries Janie to fulfill the role laid down by Janie's grandmother, a mule. Janie goes along with this for nearly a year, until change comes walking down the road in the form of
Joe Starks. Joe is a "citified, stylish man with a hat set at an angle that didn't belong in those parts," and he wants to take Janie away. Joe's dream is to become "big man" and pleads Janie to take part in his dreams of the future.
He proposes marriage to her, and arranges a rendezvous at the bottom of the road at sunup the next morning. Janie is torn because Jody "does not represent sun-up pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke of the far horizon....The memory of
Nanny was still strong." (pg. 28) When Janie decides to leave the next morning for, if nothing else, a healthy change, she looks down and sees the apron which has stood for all the things she has had to do for Logan," and flung it on a small bush beside the road. Then she walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet." (pg. 31) When Janie threw the apron on the bush, it represented a major change in Janie's life, and a progression from Logan. Janie is continuing her search for true love, although she knows already that Jody is not the perfect fulfillment of her dream, and how she has been affected by Jody already.