Tag Archives: janie

Dialogue in Hurston

“Don’t think Ah don’t feel wid you Janie, ’cause Ah do. Ah couldn’t love yuh no more if Ah had uh felt yo’ birth pains mahself. Fact uh de matter, Ah ives yuh a whole heap more’n Ah do yo’ moms, de one Ah did birth…” (15)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Something I found very interesting was the dialogue in the novel. It’s actually a bit difficult to read but I like the way Hurston writes it because it makes it very realistic and believable. It actually makes it a bit easier if the dialogue is read out loud but regardless of how difficult it may be, I think it’ pretty authentic and I like that.

Narrative Strategies

Throughout the first ten pages of the novel the narrator describes the setting and places two old friends, Janie and Pheoby, in a conversation on a front porch. Pheoby asks Janie about Tea Cake. Janie provides a vague response, but when she realizes that Pheoby is ready to listen and understand Janie begins her life story, starting with a description of her childhood. This narrative strategy is used effectively so readers can understand events of Janie’s life that make her think and behave in certain ways. Chapter two continues mostly in form of Janie’s dialogue. At this point, I was worried that the entire novel was written in Janie’s dialogue, which is not easy to read because of her improper speech patterns. The dialogue is broken into paragraphs based on Janie quoting other people  and the development of new thoughts. Then, on page 11, there are two shifts in narrative voice,  the first shift goes back to the original narrator that described the women sitting on the porch, “Pheoby’s hungry listening helped Janie to tell her story…the night time put on flesh and blackness.” This paragraph is used to once again  show the women sitting on the porch and that the story of Janie’s life continues. Then, the next paragraph shifts to a new narrator, “She thought awhile and declared that her conscious life commenced at Nanny’s gate. On a late afternoon Nanny had called her to come inside the house because she had spied Janie letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the gatepost.” If this narrator were to be physically present in the novel he/she would be sitting on the porch, listening to the women’s conversation. This narrator does not actually know the events and details of Janie’s past, he/she only knows as much as Janie discloses. The narrator listens to Janie’s story and translates it into a more comprehensive and intelligable writing. It is evident that the narrator does not know what happened in Janie’s past before Janie says so because the narrator says “She thought a while and declared.” Janie is the person who declared that her concious life began  then, not the narrator. The narrator does not have the knowledge or the authority to say, “Janie’s concious life commenced at Nanny’s gate.” Upon reading this paragraph I was relieved that Janie’s story would not be entirely reveled in her dialogue!

 

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Nature Begins the Story

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. (Hurston 11)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

This passage marks the beginning of Janie’s passage into womanhood. Before she kisses Johnny Taylor, Janie has a “revelation” that marriage is much like nature, in the way that everything fits together in a “love embrace.” There is a sense of happiness coming from the way that the sun and the breeze speak to her in a way that teaches her about a human system such as marriage. What makes this very important is that it establishes her naivety very immediately before throwing her into a forced marriage. Given we are already given a foreshadow that her relationships do not work out, it is possible that her original view of marriage is the best one in that it is natural, as compared to the relationships she ends up paired with.

The beauty of newness in a bees life.

“She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation.” (11)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

This appears to be the very moment that Janie realizes what she wants out of life. Unfortunately, while the intensity of this moment is one that we often find in new love, she will one day find that it wavers with age and only becomes stale and bland. Beautiful imagery though! Interestingly, Hurston uses a bee to create this moment of realization, when the bee itself would never live long enough to lose that feeling of newness.

Characterization of Janie

“Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things, suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone.  Dawn and doom was in the branches” (Hurston 9).

Source:

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Janie is characterized as a person who is thoughtful and attentive to life and those around her.  Unlike some of the other characters, she looks at her life as a combination of positive, moments as well as negative ones, refusing to allow gossip to change her own perspectives.  It is this characteristic that differentiates her from many of the other characters in the novel’s plot.

 

The Promise of the Horizon in Hurston

“Janie pulled back a long time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2000. Print. pp. 41-42.

Hurston uses the term “horizon” as a symbol for Janie’s desire for constant gain and change. When Janie meets Joe who promises her a “far horizon” she immediately becomes interested in what he can provide for her. Since Janie did not grow up with luxury, she loos to further horizons to get more and more for herself. She will stay with Joe for as far as his “horizons” can take her until she meets someone who can take her beyond Joe’s “horizons”.

Extended Metaphor

So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time. But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things. What things? She didn’t know exactly. Her breath was gusty and short. She knew things that nobody had ever told her. For instance, the words of the trees and the wind.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. p.25. Print.

The narration makes a differentiation between the dialect shown in dialogue and the use of standard English in the narration. What doesn’t change is the sort of metaphors used by Janie; here, the narration continues to use Janie’s extended metaphor of trees in bloom that stands for female sexuality.

Understanding the language

“It’s hard for me to understand what you mean, de way you tell it. And then again Ah’m hard of understandin’ at times” (7)

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006.

This passage stood out because I felt as though I could relate to this exact statement. The way that Janie speaks is hard to read and get used to. As she started telling her story, I thought it would be hard to follow because of the language used. I think this line is as much for the reader as it is for Pheoby.