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The Novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” By Zora Neale Hurston

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AP Lit.

12 July 2018

Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay: Prompt #4

In “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, there are many recurring symbols throughout the telling of Janie’s journey to find love. Symbols often help reveal things about the characters or themes and through the story and they often help drive the storyline along. The use of imagery and motifs not only help to amplify the interest of the reader, but also to elaborate and clarify concepts that show up again and again in Janie’s southern love story with Johnny, Logan, Joe, and most importantly Tea Cake.

In the novel, Hurston describes the horizon as possibilities and opportunities. When the story starts out Janie’s perception of the horizon changes first from desire for love to the need of love, and ultimately the feeling of contentment towards love to show Janie maturing throughout the novel. The symbols that are most apparent throughout the story, are Janie‘s wishes and dreams of love and freedom.

These aspirations started at a young age and are put into an image of a pear tree on the horizon. The pear tree motif is introduced early in Janie’s story. As a sixteen-year-old girl, lying beneath a pear tree in the spring, she watches a bee gathering pollen from a pear blossom. The experience becomes a symbol to Janie of the ideal relationship, one in which passion does not result in possession or domination, but rather in an effortless union of individuals. Pursuing her dream of love, Janie sat under the pear tree and saw Johnny Taylor walk by, she perceives this as an open door to find love: “in her former blindness she had known him as shiftless Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes” (12). She then saw him as the first rock on her path to find true love.

The imagery of the horizon is used so that the reader can see what Janie’s is feeling while reading the story. “The biggest thing God ever made, the horizon–for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you”. (193). The symbol of the horizon is perfect because the horizon is always far away. No matter where you are, it’s always too far to touch, but never too far to see. Jamie’s life remains on the horizon, she hopes and dreams that true love will come, but in all reality she ends up with an abusive and possessive husband that her grandmother picked out for her. But that is not the end of Janie’s quest for love.

As Janie was sitting outside dreaming of true love a man named Joe was walking and yes, he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees” , but he did offer her the opportunity for a new life, one that she hoped would be better. Soon, Janie realises that “the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another.took the bloom off of things”. (46) She realized that Joe was not her dream, but she stuck with it anyway. She became discouraged, but then her husband Joe dies and ironically, she is actually quite happy about it.

After her second husband’s death, Janie meets Tea Cake, the true fulfillment of her dream under the pear tree, he was her road to finally reaching the horizon. “He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom–a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps.” (106) Tea Cake was Janie’s dream, he was what she had been looking for. Ever since when she first realized what love really was when she was sixteen, under that little pear tree.

Janie, Tea Cake, and their friends can only look on in terror as the hurricane destroys the structure of their lives and leaves them to rebuild as best they can. A pivotal event in the novel, the hurricane marks an abrupt transition from Janie’s idyllic life with Tea Cake. After the storm strikes, events rush rapidly to Tea Cake’s death and the novel’s conclusion.

Throughout the story Janie’s need for love continues to grow stronger as she continues to grow older, because of the multiple failed relationships that have made her look at the horizon and wonder how things would be if her dreams become reality. Her dreams will always be beyond the horizon, but that does not mean she’ll ever stopped trying to reach it.

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