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Symbols In Their Eyes Were Watching God - With A Free Essay Review



Love is what so many people search for throughout their lives. Kahlil Gibran once said, “And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” This quote is especially true in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a story about an African American woman named Janie living in the 1900s who spends her life trying to find self fulfillment through love. She marries two men before she is directed to her one true love. Zora Neale Hurston uses symbols such as the pear tree and the horizon, Janie’s hair, and the hurricane to define Janie and to help readers better understand and visualize the entire story of Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Janie’s hair functions as a symbol of her strength and eccentric identity. In the beginning of the story, Janie is portrayed wearing her hair down which causes the people of the town to look down on her because in that time, it was considered undignified for a woman of her age to wear her hair down. Wearing her hair down symbolizes her freedom, while her atypical behavior shows that Janie prefers to go against the status-quo of society. While Janie is married to her second husband, Joe Starks, he forces to wear her hair up in a head-rag while in public. This represents Janie’s bondage and causes her identity and femininity to be stifled. Janie’s hair also symbolizes whiteness because it is so straight. When Mrs. Turner says, “…Ah don’t see how uh lady like Mis’ Woods can stand all them common blacks round her place all de time…,” (Hurston 140) it shows that Mrs. Turner worships Janie because she admires her white features. This Caucasian characteristic also causes Janie to somewhat disgruntle the traditional “man over woman” relationship.

The pear tree and the horizon depict Janie’s quintessential view of nature. To Janie, the pear tree in her back-yard represents safety and comfort. When lying underneath the pear tree, Janie sees bees interact with the blooms of the pear tree, which in her eyes, is a perfect moment in nature when everything is in harmony. The witness of this very interaction becomes her idealization of marriage and love. It is especially evident that Janie wants this love after she has experienced two unhappy marriages and says, “Ah done lived Granma’s way, now I means to live mine.” (Hurston 114) Sure enough, Janie searches for the perfect love throughout the entire story. The horizon at the end of the novel is described as a great fish net which contains Janie’s entire life along with her idealization of love. The horizon symbolizes Janie’s success at finally achieving a great marriage with plenty of love and happiness.

While the pear tree and the horizon represent the world in perfect harmony, the hurricane represents how very chaotic the world can be. The hurricane symbolizes the fury of nature and the wrath of God. It causes each character in the story to question who they are and whether or not their lives had any purpose at all. It also makes them wonder if they can survive in a world filled with such pain and if God even cares about them. The hurricane doesn’t discriminate, just destructs. Although when Janie is faced with the reality that she could quite possibly loose her life, she says, ‘…If you kin see de light at daybreak, you don’t keer if you die at dusk…” (Hurston 159) which shows that if she dies now, she is content with her life.

Janie’s hair symbolizes much of her own personality, while the pear tree, horizon, and hurricane represent the changing “personality” the world has. Janie’s strong personality enables her to deal with all situations in her life, whether they are good or bad. Without Zora Neale Hurston’s incorporation of these symbols, the reader may not have understood the true meaning of Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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ESSAY REVIEW

Your thesis is too vague but it at least has the merit of revealing that you understand that it is not quite enough for an essay to elucidate only the significance of a few distinct “symbols”. You also need to explain how these elements of the writing contribute to the overarching meaning of the story. Unfortunately, to say “to help readers better understand and visualise the entire story” is not to say very much. A thesis needs to be much more specific than that. What you need to do rather, if you can, is explain to the readers just how these symbols help them as readers in the stated way. It’s not clear otherwise what you mean exactly by “visualize the entire story,” or why you think such visualization is enabled by the symbols you identity.

I am sure you imagine that you have at least implicitly explained why you think that the symbols help us visualize the story just by virtue of having explained that having hair down indicates freedom, and “hair up” indicates bondage, and the pear tree symbolizes comfort and so on. But there are no sentences in your essay that tie all of these symbols and their disparate meanings together into a coherent vision of the significance of the novel as a whole beyond the current, too vague, thesis statement. My advice is that you should abandon your current thesis (as irredeemably vague) and try to construct a different thesis, perhaps one related to the theme of the novel you identify in your opening sentences.

The most difficult “symbol” to deal in that case would be the symbol of the “hair,” for it’s not immediately obvious what that has to do with the protagonists search for love (unless the search for love means the search for a man who will let her keep her hair down, which I suppose is not impossible!). The hurricane, of course, would also be difficult to deal with, even if every love story has its obstacles to be endured. You may think, however, that the hurricane doesn’t really tell the reader much about the aspect of the novel’s meaning that you have chosen to focus on, which is fine; but in that case, for the sake of a coherent, argumentative essay, you might decide to leave it out.

A few other things that you might want to work on.

1. You need to construct transitions between paragraphs. Transitions will allow your reader to experience your essay as one continuous argument if they are based on the overall argument of the essay. For example, between your first two body paragraphs, the most basic type of transition might look like this: “Another symbol in the novel that contributes to {X} is the pear tree” -- where {X} is something more specific and meaningful than “the reader’s visualization of the whole story.”

2. Paragraph organization: This will be improved by using your transitions as topic sentences; i.e., sentences that limit the scope of the paragraph. If you use the first sentence in this way, then it follows that each paragraph will deal with one topic only.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: allydecelle
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