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There Eyes Were Watching God

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Essay title: There Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God It is human nature to look for happiness. Some people find it in material possessions, some find it in money, but most of us find it in love. To find true love is a difficult task especially now in the times of cell phones and Jaguars. Money and power play a big role in today’s society, and some people would rather have those things than a love of another human being. In some rare cases it is not even a person’s decision who she (almost every time it’s a woman who is being given away) will marry. Although it does not happen very often, there are still cases where a woman is being married off to a man by an arrangement made by her parents, to insure stability and security of that woman. The standing in the community means a great deal, just like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God illustrates.

Janie, the main character in the book, was raised by her grandmother. Ever since Janie’s mother ran away it was just the two of them living together. As a kid Janie lived in the house where her grandmother was a nanny for a white family. She was treated the same as the white children, they ate together, played together, even got punished together. Janie, unlike most of the blacks at that time, did not see any discrimination while she was growing up. That was the building block of her strong personality. There was some teasing in school about her living in a white folks home, but she did not pay much attention to that.

Now if I may go off the subject for a moment I would like to say how beautifully and descriptively the book is written. There is one passage in particular that I truly enjoyed reading :

It was a spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in the back-yard. She had been spending every minute that she could steal from her chores under that tree for the last three days. That was to say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery. From barren brown stems to glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom. It stirred her tremendously. How? Why? It was like a flute song forgotten in another existence and remembered again. What? How? Why? This singing she heard that had nothing to do with her ears. The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness (11).

Nanny’s dream (Nanny was how Janie called her grandmother) was for Janie to attain a position of security in society, “high ground” as she put it. As the person who raised her, Nanny felt that it is both her right and obligation to impose her dreams and her ideas of what is important in life on Janie. From that, of course, came a big conflict. As the book shows the strong relationship between mother and child is important in the African-American community, and the conflict between Janie’s idyllic view of marriage and Nanny’s wish for her to marry for stability and position is a good illustration of just how deep the respect and trust runs. Janie had a very romantic notion of what marriage should be. “She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace . . . so this was a marriage,” is how Janie pictured marriage. Nanny’s idea of a good marriage was someone who has some standing in the community, someone who would get Janie to that higher ground. Nanny wanted Janie to marry Logan Killicks, but according to Janie “he look like some ole skull-head in de grave yard” Hurston (28). Even more importantly to Janie, though, was the fact that “the vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree”. Nanny told Janie “So you don’t want to marry off decent like . . . you wants to make me suck the same sorrow yo’ mama did, eh? Mah ole head ain’t gray enough. My back ain’t bowed enough to suit you!”. After they had the fight over Logan Killicks, Nanny said something, by way of an explanation of why Janie needs to marry up the social ladder, that revealed a good deal about the reality of being an African-American woman. She says “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see” Hurston (29). Janie, out of respect for her grandmother, went off to start her role as a wife.

For the most part, Janie’s experiences as a wife were typical of what many women go through, at least in terms of the roles that she was cast in. In contrast to the role of the mother, which is one of giving and nurturing, the role of wife is characterized

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