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The Use Of Symbolism In Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay, Research Paper

How symbolism is used in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston uses symbolism to enhance characterization in her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and symbolism is portrayed through the heroine of the novel, Janie Crawford. Three uses of symbolism are through Janie s hair, the store porch, and the pear tree. The way Janie wears her hair expresses her level of freedom. The male characters of Eatonville gather outside on the store porch to converse and socialize. The pear tree expresses Janie s emotional state. Furthermore, symbolism plays a significant role in the novel by being expressed through the characters.

Janie s hair symbolizes her freedom. When she wears her hair up, she is being controlled, and yet when Janie wear her hair down, she is no longer under the dictatorship of Joe Starks. This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store (55). This enhances Janie s character by showing that something as simple as the way she wears her hair affects the way she reacts and expresses herself. When Janie s hair is up in the head-rag, she loses her voice . On the contrary, once she lets her hair free, Janie regains her voice and is no longer contained within herself.

The Store porch is the main gathering place in Eatonville, and the people go there to buy their groceries, gossip, and socialize. When the people sat around on the porch and passed around the pictures of their thoughts for the others to look at and see, it was nice (54). Janie is unable to take part in the male-only discussions on the porch, yet she enjoys listening to them. The store is the center of social life in Eatonville. In other words, the town s social time revolved around the store porch.

The pear tree symbolizes Janie s sexuality and emotional state. When Janie is being loved and/or is in a happy and joyful mood, the tree blossoms within her. When she is being abused and is unhappy, the tree inside of her begins to wither. Hurston writes, The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree (13). The pear tree symbolizes how Janie is feeling on the inside, the pear tree is she. Whether the pear tree is blossoming from happiness or withering from sorrow, the tree reflects Janie’s emotions. This enhances Janie s character by showing that she can have a world of her own on the inside, and not let it be revealed on the outside. Hurston states, It called her to come and gaze on a mystery oh to be a pear tree- any tree in bloom (10-11)! According to literary Critic, Cynthia Bond, Janie internalizes the image of the pear tree, using it over and over again to figure her life (Bond). Above all, Janie, like the pear tree, fully blooms when Tea Cake is brought into her life.

Symbolism enhances characterization in Hurston s Their Eyes Were Watching God. By the way Janie wears her hair, the style states whether she has the freedom of her voice or not. The store porch is a very popular spot for the males to gather in Eatonville to buy groceries and discuss affairs. The pear tree is an expression of Janie and her internal emotions. Symbolism is displayed well throughout the novel to enhance characterization.


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