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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Symbols, Characters And Plot

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In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a young girl by the name of Janie Crawford embarks on a journey to find herself true love. From three different marriages, to traveling from place to place, Janie learns a lot about herself and the world around her. Hurston implements many great instances of symbolism all through the novel. She introduces various powerful and interesting characters forms start to finish. She establishes a very long and detailed plot with many many different events happening throughout the book. Their Eyes Were Watching God was a excellent book for many reasons.

To begin, the novel consisted of great symbolism. Janies hair throughout the book is a symbol of her strength and independence. In numerous instances her town sought it to be inappropriate for her to wear her hair down because of her age. On top of that her own husband, made her tie her hair up in the store because he was jealous of other men looking at it. For 20 years her hair had to be tied up. When Joe died, Janie was finally able to let her hair flow freely as a sign of her independence. Secondly, the hurricane represents the vicious aspect of nature. Janie first finds out about the hurricane when a group of Native Americans come walking past her and warn her about a big storm approaching. Eventually Janie and Tea Cake flee their house to get away. The hurricane makes the characters wonder about themselves, as well as what their place in the universe is. The destructiveness of the hurricane also leads Janie and Tea Cake to ponder the existence of God and whether or not he even cares about them. Hurston examples of symbolism adds to the diverse characterization expressed throughout the novel.

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Secondly, Their Eyes Were Watching God was a great book because the characters are intriguing and unique in their own way. To start, Janie, the protagonist, had three different husbands over the course of the book. She, unlike her Nanny, wanted to marry someone she loved rather then for financial stability. Janie wasn’t the average stay at home wife. At the start of the book, the reader learns that Janie is strong, proud, and completely unbothered by the community gossip about her. She wanted more in life and wanted to adventure. Her first husband, Logan Killicks, treated her like a farm animal, and her second husband silenced her and beat her to show he was inferior. Finally after two failed marriages Janie finds a younger man by the name of Tea Cake. He respects her and most importantly lets her express her individuality and is not invidious to her. He teaches her how to shoot a gun, how to hunt, and takes her to all the adventures he goes on. One of the other interesting characters in the book is Joe Stark. He starts off as a noble and confident man who is an entrepreneur. As soon as he meets Janie, they go off to live in a developing town where Joe is elected mayor there. He brings nothing but good fortune to the new town and the people love him. As time progresses, Joe begins to develop a need to control everything around him. This eventually leads to him wanting to control Janie and tell her what to do and how to act. If Janie attempts to talk back, Joe will beat her in front of everyone. Janie is distraught with her life and is not able to find true love with Joe. He soon dies of a sickness and Janie is relieved. All through the novel, each character contributes to the wild plot of Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Lastly, this was a good book because of the fast paced plot. Each chapter there is a completely different event happening. One of the first notable events is when Janie runs off with Joe Starks away from Logan, and becomes a big role as the “mayors wife.” Within a chapter, Janie is living a completely different life with a brand new man. She is put in charge of a store and helps out with anything Joe needs. Janie begins to grow unhappy of the way Joe is treating her and decides that Joe isn’t the one for her. She then starts to fall under the charm of a handsome 25 year old guy by the name of Tea Cake and runs off with him. As Tea Cake and Janie fall more in love disaster hits, and a big hurricane wipes out tons of people forcing them to run and find shelter somewhere else. During this storm, Tea Cake is bitten by a mad dog and slowly begins to show signs of insanity. Janie is heartbroken when the doctor warns her to be careful with Tea Cake as he might possibly harm Janie because of the mad dog. Janie is aware of the doctors warning to be careful with Tea Cake. She notices Tea Cake has a gun under his pillow and eventually he attempts to use it on Janie. She has no choice but to react in self defense by shooting Tea Cake killing him. She holds him in her arms thanking him for giving her the chance to be in love. In the span of a couple chapters Janie goes from having a wonderful happy life to being caught in a maelstrom of chaos and having no choice but to shoot and kill her husband.

For all the reasons above, Their Eyes Were Watching God was an exceptional piece of literature. Hurston examples of symbolism with Janies hair and the hurricane express Janie’s independence as well as the frightening aspect of nature. The unique build up of different characters adds to the greatness of the novel. The plot moves rapidly from event to event leaving one on edge. From husband to husband Janie learns more and more about herself and her emotions ultimately leading to her happiness as the story closes. All in all, Hurston writing of symbolism, characters, and the plot leads to a masterpiece.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Symbols, Characters And Plot. (2021, August 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Their Eyes Were Watching God: Symbols, Characters And Plot.” Edubirdie, 11 Aug. 2021,
Their Eyes Were Watching God: Symbols, Characters And Plot. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
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