In Cake, Hurston shows what a freesouthern

In Cake, Hurston shows what a freesouthern

In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston shows howthe lives of American women changed in the early 20th century.

Zora NealeHurston creates a character in her own likeness in her masterpiece, Their EyesWere Watching God. By presenting Janie’s search for identity, from herchildbirth with Nanny to the death of Tea Cake, Hurston shows what a freesouthern black women might have experienced in the early decades of the century.To the racial ties that would affect Janie all the way through this life longsearch. Janie’s search for identity actually started long before she was born.Because Janie’s search is her family’s search. Nanny and Janie’s mom gave Janiea reason to search. They were always held back by their owners, and their ownerstook advantage of them, and raped them.

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They raped them of their identity. Nannysignifies to evade the realities of her life and the life of Janie. When Nannysays, “Thank yuh, Massa Jesus,” she is illustrating that although she is nolonger a slave, the slave consciousness has caused her to view even herrelationship with the deity about slave and master. This makes Janie the leaderof her family’s search.

However Nanny realized this, and when she saw that Janiewas old enough for love she had her married. This guaranteed that Janie wouldnot continue a loss of identity.Even as a young girl, living in the materialistic world of her Nanny andher first husband, Logan Killicks, Janie chooses to listen to “the words of thetrees and the wind” (23-24).

This is the first evidence of her searching beyondher boring life. This then leads to her everyday life left empty, because she isalways looking farther than where she is at the time. So day by day she getsmore worked up into leaving Logan, and searching for love.

When she leaves Loganto run off with Joe, she thinks to herself, “Her old thoughts were going to comein handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them” (31).Joe aims to be a big voice and that is why he comes to Eatonville,Florida. He feels that he will have a better chance at being a big voice in anall black town than in a white man’s town. The problem is that he has adoptedwhite man’s values and forces them upon the townspeople and, most notably, uponhis wife Janie.

Hurston points out the irony of Joe’s dilemma: “Starks is ableto ‘set himself up as lord, master, and proprietor’ everywhere in Eatonville,and not just in his general store. His power in Eatonville approximates thewhite man’s almost total institutional control of America” (27-28). Thisrelationship was just another setback in Janie’s epic search. Nevertheless, whenher marriage to Joe collapses, she again decides, “So new thoughts had to bethought and new words said” (77).After a long stretch of pointless and endless days in her search, Joedies. This is one of the greatest days in her search. By now Janie’srelationship with Tea Cake was growing into her greatest love yet.

When shefalls in love with Tea Cake, she tells her friend Pheoby, “He done taught me demaiden language all over” (109). Her search seemed very close to a peaceful end.However, it was far from over, Tea Cake became ill after being bitten by a rabiddog, he feared that he had been conjured. He was suspicious that Janie wanted tobe free of him so that she could marry a lighter skinned man. In an attempt toquell his fear, Janie said, “Maybe it wuz uh witch ridin’ yuh, honey. Ah’ll seecan’t Ah find some mustard seed whilst Ah’s out” (166).Janie’s search for an identity for herself, free of the ideas she hadgrown up with, ties into bigger issues, important for her race as a whole.

Nanny’s vision of Janie’s care free life on a porch somewhere is associated withbeing white; somehow the other lives of women are made to be less honorablealong with their racial ties. Janie’s straight hair becomes tied up withwhiteness, and because of the society’s racial pecking order, her hair is a formof power against which her first two husbands strive. It is only toward the end,when Janie both lets her hair down and condemns Nanny’s vision, that Janie shedsthe same restrictions that continue to doom others to personal stagnation.

Inone compelling novel, Hurston ties together the important issues facing hergeneration without distracting from the tale of one woman’s struggle with them.Category: English

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