Self-Discovery in Their Eyes Were Watching God Term Paper

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Self-Discovery in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Hurston utilizes the literary techniques of characterization, figurative language, narrative style, and voice to demonstrate Janie's emotional maturity in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Huston develops Janie's character by allowing her to find her voice

Janie learns that things are not always what they seem

Janie find her voice through her relationships

Janie learns to accept confrontation as an exercise in building character

Janie learns that we can learn about ourselves through tragedy

Life's experiences make us spiritual creatures as we approach death

The novel can be seen as a tragedy but we should also look at Janie as a hero in that she does not crack under the pressure of life. Instead, she continues to learn from life.

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In her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston utilizes the literary techniques of characterization, figurative language, narrative style, and voice to demonstrate Janie's emotional maturity. The novel centers primarily on Janie's journey of finding her voice. She emerges as a strong, confident woman because she remains open to life despite its hardships. Instead of becoming bitter and resentful, she learns from his mistakes and her misconceptions and tries to grow from them. She also finds her voice from the different relationships she has and learns that confrontation can be a good character-building tool. Through the tragic events of her life, Janie realizes that there is hope and faith and, in the end, peace. This acceptance brings Janie to a comfortable spiritual understanding as well. Janie comes to own her character by the end of the novel and can face the end of her life with the satisfaction that she did the best she could in the worst of circumstances.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Self-Discovery in Their Eyes Were Watching God Assignment

Much of the novel focuses on Janie's evolution as a person. Finding her own voice in the world is critical to her development. Only by learning who she is, can she discover her true nature. Hurston first allows Janie to learn who she is though her vision - or how she sees things. As Nanny tells her, we "can't know nothin' but what we see" (Hurston 14), she is emphasizing that, most of the time, how we perceive things is how we believe them to be. Basically, things are not always what they seem to be and they are certainly not always what we perceive them to be. This is Janie's first lesson in the ways of the world and the beginning of many things she would learn. Because things are generally not as they appear, this is a fantastic way to begin Janie's journey.

Growth comes from interaction with others and Janie is not stranger to that. While Janie finds herself in one bad relationship after another, she finds that her voice becomes stronger.

As a result, Janie becomes mature. For example, early in the novel, Janie believes that marriage always meant love. We read, "Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be true. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant" (21). She also naively believed that marriage removed the loneliness from one's life. Her first marriage to Logan allows her to see the falsity of that statement. Marriage is nothing but a constant struggle for Janie and finding her voice is difficult because Logan is always belittling her. We learn as we go along and as Janie moves on, she learns about herself. As her character develops and she grows more aware of how things actually are, we find her telling Jody that even though he has lived with her for twenty years, he "don't half know me at all" (86). She has the courage to confront him as well, telling him, "you got tuh pacify somebody beside yo'self... You ain't tried to pacify nobody but yo'self. Too busy listening to yo' own big voice" (86). This scene is significant because it allows us to see Janie being assertive with Jody and it turns out that he cannot handle the strong woman she becomes. Janie, too, becomes aware of her own strength, something that forces her realize many truths about life but none so important as the fact that she was becoming a woman.

Finding one's voice also comes with challenges and, while these challenges may be frightening, they can build character and strength. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie's confrontation with Jody is important because Janie releases all of the bitterness and anger that she has carried inside or so long. This healthy move must happen for Janie to enter into a good relationship with Tea Cake. Her confrontation is also significant because since she is free from all pain and bitterness, she can discover who she is as an individual. Without her emotional maturity, she would never have accomplished this. In addition, because Janie is such an independent woman, Tea Cake accepts her. One scene that allows us to see just how much Janie has developed is when she is on trial. As she speaks for herself and refuses to beg, we see that she has come to know who she really is. She is very straightforward in the trial and attempts to convince the jury that Tea Cake was not the same person he was and a "man is up against a hard game when he must die to beat it. She made them see how she couldn't ever want to be rid of him" (187). We see Janie as a self-confident woman in this scene. She is not afraid to tell the truth because she did what she had to do. It is important to note just how much Janie has developed because she finds the strength to carry on even after she loses her husband in the traumatic way that she has.

Janie's journey of self-discovery is a tragedy but it is not tragic. She has endured much to learn who she is but she emerges as a strong, independent woman and we can see how her character has developed through every single experience she has the courage to face. Because she materializes triumphantly, her tragedy is not futile. In fact, it is through her conversations with Phoeby that we see Janie's wisdom. After returning to Eatonville, no one can deny that she is a woman transformed. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that she does not care what others think of her or what they say about her. She understands that love is not the simple wish she thought it was when she first married Jody and tries to impart this knowledge to Phoeby. She realizes that the experience of love is different for all individuals and compares it to the sea in hat "it'uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes it shape from the shore it meets, and it's different with every shore" (191). It is also important to note that Janie's journey to self contains a spiritual aspect.

Self-discovery takes a lifetime but it is always worth it in that it is always better to know oneself rather than not. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie does indeed know herself - at least for the most part. Close to the end of her life, Janie realizes the spiritual aspect of her passage. It may seem that she denies her death at times but we cannot deny that she is aware of what is happening. All that she can say to Phoeby is that we must all go to God in our own way. Darryl Hattenhauer develops this notion, adding that Janie's journey is "more psychological than geographic" (Hattenhauer). Janie tells Phoeby, "You got tuh go there to know there... Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh themselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Self-Discovery in Their Eyes Were Watching God.  (2008, April 8).  Retrieved October 16, 2021, from

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"Self-Discovery in Their Eyes Were Watching God."  8 April 2008.  Web.  16 October 2021. <>.

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"Self-Discovery in Their Eyes Were Watching God."  April 8, 2008.  Accessed October 16, 2021.