Zora Neal Hurston- Their Eyes Were Watching God

The novel Their Eyes Were Watching God’s most prominent subject is passion and relationships. It portrays Janie’s quest for fulfillment, as well as true and unrestricted affection. She has seen different forms of love in her life. Janie achieves personal freedom and liberty as a result of her love journey, making her the story’s protagonist. Walker claimed that as a result of her battles for personal rights, people judge her for daring to seek sovereignty (45). According to Hurston, Janie marries Logan, her first husband, out of love for her grandmother, wishing for adoration between them. Unfortunately, her mission is not achieved in the marriage (54). As a result, this permits Jody to emanate and sweep Janie away (Hankinson 291). From Davis’s argument, at the start of Jody marriage to her, Janie feels that she may have gotten what she has been looking for, however as Jody gets to authority in the township he changes (513). Jody comes to be obsessed with his look to others and himself. Schaub claims that he starts to treat his wife, Janie, in an inferior manner and uses her as a workhorse obliterating her journey for equivalence with him as well as roots resentment among them (36; Walker 32). Jody is disgusted by the stubborn nature of Janie, and this makes him treat her worse. Consequently, Hurston writes that after Jody’s decease, Janie commences discovering a real logic of herself (34). From Schaub’s point of view, she starts to study the idea of independence (43). However, for the duration of her mission for individuality, Tea Cake begins to come about. He follows Janie untiringly (Davis 512). He further explains that Janie is unwilling to entertain Tea Cake due to their differences in age. Subsequently, after some time, Janie stops her stubbornness and turns out to be interested and engaged with Tea Cake. Schaub added that Janie lastly finds the independence, equality, security, and fulfillment she had spent her lifetime searching for (54). In spite of Janie’s riches, she decides to live a modest lifestyle with Tea Cake letting him reinforce her (Davis 512). Tea Cake and Janie suffer tribulations and trials, nonetheless, their undying adoration for each one another allows them to overcome these hindrances (Hankinson 292). Therefore, the theme of love and relationships has been expressed using many techniques including imagery, irony, metaphors and symbols, and dialects.

Metaphors and Symbols

A great number metaphors and symbols are used by Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God to bring out the theme of love and relationship in Janie’s story. Walker noted that symbols suggest or represent another thing (38). Conversely, metaphors are figuration of speech having an implied contrast in which a phrase or word primarily and ordinarily made use of one object is applied to the other. An image of a horizon in the novel is one of the most dominant metaphors in the novel. Hurston asserts that as Janie ascents the pear plant to view what is nearby her, she observes the horizon (67). The horizon as well plays a key role at the sundown, a period while porch sitters sit down outside by the end of a productive day to look out the sunset (Walker 21). Janie needs to have a journey to the horizon. As a result, her trip becomes one major metaphor found in the novel. At sunrise, she travels down towards the road to the training place to meet and marry Tea Cake with hopes that this involvement will let her continue going to the horizon. From Hankinson’s understanding, the horizon is Janie’s symbol of lifetime quest for hapiness (294). Similarly, at the conclusion of the novel, Pheoby is concerned with the search for her horizon with her partner, consequently, getting information of Janie’s story.

Likewise, a new metaphor in the story is seen in the working women and men as well as the contrast to the mule. Harvey maintains that the people who sit on a porch were working the whole day and also they have been treated as mules the whole work day (210). The idea is supported by Walker who mentions that just at the conclusion of the daytime as they all enjoy their individual leisure time on a porch; they come to be human beings (50). In the interlude Hurston’s mule, close to the end of his natural life, the animal is displayed to have been given respite, just like the hard-working women and men “mules” acquire respite by the end of their functioning day.

Subsequently, the image of the mule is as expressed well in the story. The mule of Matt Bonner represents betrayal and mistreatment (Hurston 129). Conceivably, Janie feels empathy for the poorer animal since she also agonizes the outcome of abuse, just the way mule does. Walker stated that despite the fact that the ill-treatment she endures is mainly emotional, on the other hand, the mistreatment that the mule faces is primarily physical (43). Irrespective of the kind of abuse each experiences, the mule is represented as a sign of the mistreatment that Janie meets during her marriage moments to Joe.

The use of blossoming pear tree in the novel shows a powerful metaphor as well. Harvey asserts that Janie is delighted by the gorgeous tree found in the Nanny’s backyard (199). Hankinson affirms that as Janie climbs the plant and sits down on one of its branches, she recognizes the sense of true love as soon as she observes the marriage between the bees to blooms at the pear plant (293). Therefore, in the novel, Janie’s emerging womanhood is symbolized by blossoming pear plant. Janie’s picture of love and relationship, as she sees it in a pear tree, makes her go on her lifetime search for love.

The first line of the book Their Eyes Were Watching God which states that every man’s wishes are at the distance ships is also an example of a metaphor (Davis 512). Hurston is applying the notion of a ship on the horizon to represent a man’s vision. At times it comes to the harbor, however, sometimes it remains away on the horizon to ultimately sail away (56). He as well highlighted that Joe does not comprehend the reason why Janie does not give appreciation to her status. For example, ‘he was pouring integrity over her, constructing a higher chair for Janie to sit in as well as overseeing the world’ (Harvey 194). The chair has been used as a metaphor for the pedestal or a lofty place that Joe tries to put Janie and himself to look down on other people and for others to look up to them.

Symbolism is further indicated in the novel when Tea Cake offers a real instance, that he is the protector and a comforter to Janie. From Walker’s viewpoint, Tea Cake is her protector and love. He defends her and maintains their marriage through providing for the family (60). As a conclusion, he further sacrifices himself to safeguard her from the rabid dog. The idea is also supported by Harvey who indicated that Tea Cake is symbolic of the savior in the manner he appears and removes Janie from the Eatonville where it looks that she is held in the mess of her problematic world (197). Despite that, she still runs the store and has the standing of being the previous mayor’s wife (Schaub 90). Albeit Jody was gone, he was still governing Janie, and as a result, this is what Cake was saving her.


Wreckage occurs when after the death of Janie’s husband, Jody, she finds a gentleman that truly loves her. Nevertheless, that does not indicate that her sufferings are over (Davis 513). Tea Cake, Janie’s third husband, are trapped in a shocking hurricane which destroys all things they possess (Hankinson 292). Harvey mentioned that as the two arise from the damage besides bringing themselves a safe dwelling, the narrator demonstrates the setting in greater detail (195). Besides, Janie’s development in the novel shows the choices people have on allowing relationships describe them versus outlining themselves (Hurston 78). There are various types of irony employed by the author to reflect the character’s development within the theme of love and to ensure engagement of the.

In the novel, the verbal irony is observed when a character or the author utters the opposite of the exact meaning of something. Harvey claims that at times verbal irony arises in the manner of sarcasm (196). For example, Hankinson indicated that while Janie returns home after the death of Tea Cake, the porch sitters greet her as she passes, though that is not actually what they need (291). Davis argues that these females are “starving” for gossip. As Janie approaches, the women criticize her relationship with Cake, hair, and clothes (512). Likewise, when Janie walks away, they start to blame her for lacking manners because she did not give them more gossip (Walker 14). Janie’s reaction and the ironic women’s speeches reveal how far Janie has emanated to being mayor’s spouse where looks meant all things to not caring whatever the porch sitters reason of her.

Subsequently, dramatic irony happens if the audience is aware of the truth whereas the character does not. Due to not identifying any good, the character utters a false statement (Harvey 190). Hurston writes that Mrs. Turner reasons that she is better as compared to Tea Cake since she has light skin (98). Therefore, and Sop-de-Bottom and Tea Cake deliberately stage a battle in Janie’s restaurant where both of them damage things in to persuade Mrs. Turner to leave town (Davis 512). She has no idea about their plan though it happens correctly.

Ironically, as Janie is being told by Nanny about the moment that the institute teacher violently raped her mother. Nanny says, “that school teacher had hidden her in the woods throughout the night, and raped my baby before running before daytime’’ (Hurston 106). The irony here is how Nanny needed the mother of Janie to be an institutional tutor who was a reputable rank to have though her teacher went ahead and raped her, thus, reflecting the lack of honor (Davis 513).


Imagery, according to Walker’s description, is the application of sensibly chosen words that might include techniques such as similes and metaphors literally to assist the reader “see in their mind’s eye” the action, setting, or characters (33). In the novel, the writer weaves words to generate a poetic outlook of the characters. Even in Janie’s forties, she is a beautiful woman in the town that catches the eye of each male (Davis 513). When she surprisingly arrives in the town lacking her gossipy porch talkers have a lot of conversation whereas the males stare at her (Harvey 203). Hankinson notes that “the men noted her steady buttocks resembling grapefruits put in the pockets of her hip; the greater rope of blacker hair swinging towards her waist as well as straightening out in the wind similar to a plume” (292). Schaub as well stated her aggressive breasts were making trials to create holes in “her gorgeous shirt” (20). As a result, this vibrant imagery leaves the reader’s mind knowing that Janie remains a tool of sexual attraction regardless of her difficult life and age.

Additionally, after Janie’s meeting Joe Starks she makes the hard choice to cease her unhappy marriage to the firm aged man, Logan, that her grandparent voiced her to marry (Schaub 76). However, Hankinson stated that, before leaving the town together with Joe, they both spent their night in the boarding room (293). Conversely, at this time, Janie still had not set up her voice, hence, the two relished the silence with each other. Hurston argues that, ”They both sat at a lodging house entrance and observed the sun fall to the similar fissure in the earth after which the night emerge” (71). The view of the sunset is an image for the change that evidences to be a longer, dark moment of Janie’s life. Instead of Joe being the savior as Janie expected, he ends being controlling and abusive in his need to decorate himself to be the perfect mayor in the town (Davis 512). Janie starts to resent Joe rather than admiring his activities. Davis maintained that Janie defines, ”His successful viewing belly that initially thrust out so intimidate and pugnaciously folks, sagged similar a load adjourned from his loins” (513). Hankinson argued that it is not very hard to image a political figure becoming fat off (293). From Harvey’s perception, Hurston provides an instance of imagery (200). Hurston quoted that “Joe Starks recognized entire meanings besides his narcissism bled as a flood” (50). Therefore, people might link to his statement for the reason that individuals have understood what floods resemble subsequently when someone read “bled as a flood” he may see Joe’s vanity rushing from him (Davis 512). Another example of imagery is when Hurston portrays Janie’s behavior at the burial ceremony comparing her to something which is stiffened and ironed to resolve (Walker 44). The work shows Janie’s emotional state at the death of her next husband as well as the kind of beautiful pictorial imagery Hurston made use of in the whole novel.


Hurston uses dialect in several instances throughout the conversation in the novel ”Their Eyes Were Watching God.” This dialect captures the music and rhythm of language in the cultural site of the work (Schaub 68). The writer intentionally misspells nearly all the conversations in the novel in order to capture its specific flavor of vocalized speech and distinctive culture (Harvey 187). Hankinson defines a dialect as the pronunciations, expressions, and speech patterns that are archetypal of a particular economic class, social group, or region (292). The distinctiveness of the dialect is frequently a defining characteristic of specific groups also stating dialect in a written linguistic may have various objectives (Walker 59). According to Hankinson, dialects are used in the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God with aim of capturing the distinctiveness of the verbal linguistic peculiarities of a social group or region to convey dissimilarity between these social groups or regions (293). She adds that dialect is used to reserve the folk traditions of region or a group.

The final and initial consonants are often dropped in the novel (Schaub 79). For instance, words like “yuh,” means “You,” rarely “y’all”, when plurals are observed in most Janie’s conversations with her husband (Hurston 23). Similar to “Ah” is invariable “I.” However, Hankinson also mentions that the vowel shifts frequently occur for illustration, “git” instead of “get” (291). A paired negative “No one doesn’t know” puts stress. Harvey noted that misrepresentations occur for the past tense in many instances of Janie’s conversations with Joe (188). For example, Janie mentions “knowed” to mean “knew” since, it is reasonable in dialect to use “-ed” to create a past tense (Schaub 41). In addition, in dialect patterns, Janie with her friends communicates a linguistically rich vocabulary specific for her social environment and uses a grea number of localisms (Hankinson 293). Moreover, these particular features are the characteristics of regional dialogue and they assist in making the dialects more distinctive (Schaub 37). Tea Cake consistently uses “us” as a nominative. Conceivably, it is the writer’s subtle technique of proposing that Tea belongs to a lower class than the porch sitters or Joe.


In conclusion, the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the author has used numerous techniques to express the theme of love and relationship. The stylistics devices and expressive means devices used to put clearly the meaning of the subject in the novel include irony, metaphors and symbols, dialects and imagery. Metaphors and symbols implied the contrast in the story in which a phrase or word primarily and literally used for one object is applied to the other. Pear tree, the image of the horizon, chair, mules, and ships are among the examples of metaphors and symbols used to express the theme. Consequently, the real technique of irony including verbal and dramatic irony are as well seen in the novel. Subsequently, the imagery in the novel is used to assist the reader “see in their mind’s eye” that is the action, setting, or the characters. These include some beautiful descriptions about Janie.

Works Cited

Davis, Amber. “Book Review: Zora Neale Hurston, Haiti, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Affilia, vol.29, no. 4, 2014, pp. 512-513.

Hankinson, Stephanie. “Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora by K. Merinda Simmons (Review).” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 35, no. 1, 2016, pp. 291-294.

Harvey, Marcus. “Hard Skies” and Bottomless Questions: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Epistemological “Opacity” in Black Religious Experience.” Journal of Africana Religions, vol. 4, no. 2, 2016, pp. 186-214.

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” University of Illinois, 1937.

Schaub, Megan Elizabeth. “Paradoxical Outcomes of Crisis in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Spaces Between: An Undergraduate Feminist Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013.

Walker, Shatriece L. “The Social Meaning of Men’s and Women’s Voices in Charles W. Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Electronic Theses & Dissertations Collection for Atlanta University & Clark Atlanta University, 2016.

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