“She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking into 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 the root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation” (16).
Hurston Zora Neale. “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. New York. Harper Collins Publisher. 1990. Print.
We get a sense of enlightenment from Janie who is beginning her new revelation and Hurston uses language that is filled with romanticism and deeper desire to explore the beauty and spiritualism within the world. Janie is ready to become a woman who wants to experience the idea of love for the first time and pictures the embrace between the flower and the bee to symbolize two people who are sharing the same desire.
“What dat le forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?–Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid?–Thought she was going to marry?–Where he left her?–What he done wid all her money? Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs–why she don’t stay in her class?–”
Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. 2.
Immediately, the reader realizes the different thresholds of language the narrator utilizes to depict her story. There is an interesting contrast between the language used by the protagonist and Hurston. The narrator’s voice is sophisticated, elegant, and articulates her thoughts with precision. On the other hand, Janie and Nanny’s voice can be seen as an entirely different prehistoric dialect.
“When it was all done she stood in front of Joe and said, ‘Jody, dat wuz uh mighty thing fuh you tuh do. ‘Tain’t everybody would have thought of it, ’cause it ain’t no everyday thought. Freein’ dat mule muakes uh mighty big man outa you. Something like George Washington and Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, he had de whole United States tuh rule so he freed deh Negroes. You got uh town so you freed uh mule. You have tuh power tuh free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh something.’
Hambo said, ‘You’ wife is uh born orator, Starks. Us never knowed dat befo’. She puts jus’ de right words tuh our thoughts.'”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2000. Print. 58.
“In the few days to live before she went to Logan Killicks and his often-mentioned sixty acres, Janie asked inside of herself and out. She was back and forth to the pear tree continuously wondering and thinking. Finally out of Nanny’s talk and her own conjectures she made a sort of comfort for herself. Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so” (Hurston, 21).
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
Janie convinces herself with her own inner thoughts, the words of encouragement given to her by her grandmother, and words of advice she has heard the elderly townspeople say, that marrying Logan and following this path in her life will lead to doing the right thing. What I find interesting is that she persuades herself it is worth doing despite knowing she doesn’t quite want to, and that even before she marries him her days of ‘living’ are limited. She wants love and she thinks this could turn out to be the way to find it, but what she really wants is freedom, she just doesn’t know it yet.
I also can’t help but sense a little bit of mockery of Janie’s reasoning on behalf of the narrator. “She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so” seems to mildly attack Janie’s naivete or potentially dangerous trust of what other people say, even though such people are considered older and wiser.
“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”.
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.
“I god, yeah. But not de house Ah specks tuh lives in. Dat kin wait till Ah make up mah mind where Ah wants it located. Ah figers we all needs uh store in uh big hurry.”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2000. Print. pp. 40
The language plays an important role in the novel because it makes the dialogue seem more casual as Hurston uses the rural Black dialect, like the story is being told instead on being written in a book.
“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.