Their Eyes Were Watching God


Points To Ponder

Discuss the significance of the opening of the novel. How does the play between dreams and reality set up at the beginning of the novel direct the course of the rest of the novel?

Hurston states that some men are lucky enough to be able to pursue their dreams in life. Some of them defy all obstacles and seek out the ships that sail by in the horizon. It is something of a romantic vision, but as Hurston states, the dream is truth. She is speaking of a transcendent truth—of, in other words, the transcendental of old: the one, the good, the true. These transcendental belong to God and they are what call to Janie as she matures. Obstacles, however, seem to block her from obtaining them. The reality of everyday life prevents her from experiencing the bliss of true love. She waivers between reality and dreams in her marriage to Logan and in her marriage to Joe. But finally the dream and the reality seem to merge with her marriage to Tea Cake. Yet, even that is only momentary, and reality once more separates from the dream with the death of Tea Cake.

There is a constant tension, therefore, between dreams and reality. Dreams may represent a higher truth—but that truth must be maintained in reality, in everyday life. For Janie, it is difficult to maintain that vision when she does not feel the love that she desires from her husbands. When she feels neglected or stifled she begins to dream. And yet even when she obtains the dream, the reality is imperfect, as is shown by Tea Cake’s imprudent decision to weather out the storm—a decision that ultimately results in his untimely demise. Even still, Janie helps bring about his death. She is not like Othello’s Desdemona or Lear’s Cordelia. She resists Tea Cake’s madness. It is her bullet that kills him. Ultimately, it is Janie who cannot bear the reality when it turns against her—in such cases, she cannot exist but in dreams.

What does the title of the novel refer to?

If Janie represents movement toward the ship of dreams,...

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Essays About Their Eyes Were Watching God