Janie’s Development: Double Descriptives and Similes
Janie’s Development: Double Descriptives and Similes in Their Eyes Were Watching God In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s development and maturity is influenced by her heredity and environment. Her relationships with Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake are the most essential components in her development as a woman. Within her different relationships, she discovers more about herself and obtains independence by starting to see herself as a confident person. Even though she faces mistreatment, she finds individual fulfillment. Hurston uses characteristics of Black expression to indicate drama within elements of African American expression. Drama and language are connected and words paint a picture rather than conveying abstract concepts.
Hurston uses double descriptives, dramatization, and similes to reflect Janie’s will to live and show how she is able to live the life she desires. In “The Characteristics of Negro Expression”, Hurston argues that similes, metaphors, double descriptives, and verbal nouns are essential parts of oral communication because it allows for words to have detached ideas and gives people the will to adorn. She describes how drama is a major part of the Black expression and how it is used to dramatize language: “Every phase of Negro life is highly dramatised. No matter how joyful or how sad the case there is sufficient poise for drama.
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Everything is acted out. Unconsciously for the most part of course,” (Hurston 1). African Americans develop languages with words that have detached ideas. For example, Paradise Lost and Sartor Resartus are written in cheque words and a primitive man exchanges descriptive words. Yet, African Americans detached words in his vocabulary and add action. Some being “chop-axe,” and “sitting-chair,” (Hurston 1). The speaker has the picture of the object in use in his mind. This essay focuses on the different ways African Americans express themselves and create their own representations. Overall, the role of these elements is to promote action toward better meaning. Hurston states that African Americans think in hieroglyphics, making it easier for everyone to understand regardless of knowledge. The use of double descriptives portrays the pear tree, changes in Janie’s transformation and the realization of her hopes and dreams. Through nature, Janie learns the truths of life, love, and the path to finding her identity.
The pear tree marks Janie’s “blossoming” as a sexually mature woman and serves as her innocence: “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,” (Hurston 11). The double descriptives describe her curiosity and desires regarding marriage, love, and sex. Janie feels herself opening like the petals of every blossom and wants to find a sweet marriage represented by the bees and blossoms. Nevertheless, Janie’s nanny recognizes this sexual desire as dangerous and believes this threatens Janie’s independence and her well-being. Janie does not mention that Logan Killicks is desecrating the pear tree (Hurston 14). Logan destroys the meaning of the pear tree because it is not the way Janie feels compared to when she is under the pear tree. Her meaning of love is established by her experience under the tree, an experience that is romanticized and glamorized through her eyes. The thought of marrying an older man pulverizes her idealized image of love.
In a later relationship, Janie refers to Tea Cake as, “a bee to a blossom – a pear tree blossom in the spring” (Hurston 106). Janie’s sexual awakening, under the pear tree, is brought up again due to her feelings and sexual desires for Tea Cake. They are as natural as the attraction of a bee to a pear blossom in spring. The pear tree is an essential role in Janie’s development because she is motivated to find a relationship with reciprocal love. Double descriptives demonstrate the horizon and Janie’s aspirations for equality within her different relationships. She realizes that her relationships suppress her and prevents her from developing as a powerful independent woman. Her entire life is a dream and once one fades away, she discovers new ones. Janie’s dreams help her realize what she wants in life and who she is as an individual. Janie’s relationship with Logan starts proceeding downhill due to Logan’s unkind treatment, making Janie lose interest in him and focus on Joe Starks: “The morning road air was like a new dress,” (Hurston 32). Janie’s fighting with Logan exemplifies her inability to express herself and stand up for herself. Her new relationship with Joe offers Janie a fresh beginning of hope and possibility. Comparing the morning road to a new dress proves her need for freedom and her willingness to do something about it.
However, Janie quickly realizes that Joe is controlling, isolates Janie and is too caught up in his power and wealth. After Joe’s death, Janie meets Tea Cake who treats her like a friend, instead of an object. Janie notices that Tea Cake treats her as an equal which brings out Janie’s confidence. Janie sits on her porch and watches the moon rise and “soon it’s amber fluid was drenching the earth, and quenching the thirst of the day,” (Hurston 99). The imagery of the moon quenching the thirst of the day reflects how she feels currently. In her past marriages, she has always felt unfulfilled and is still craving the feelings she felt when she was under the pear tree. She desires a wonderful marriage, although her past two marriages did not satisfy those needs. Her happiness is shown through the quote and her desire for a healthy relationship begins to satisfy her. The “amber fluid” signifies Tea Cake’s attention to Janie, who has not experienced this respect before. His attention makes her feel alive and “quench[s] the thirst” for a new relationship where she can truly show herself. Ultimately, the double descriptive of the horizon demonstrates Janie’s motivation to accomplish her dreams which ends up helping her individual growth.
The use of double descriptives shown regarding Janie’s hair, conveys Janie’s power, freedom, individuality, and Joe Starks’ oppression. This is important because Janie finally realizes what she deserves and her hair is supposed to represent individuality rather than her being powerless. Janie’s hair does not represent her freedom when Joe makes her tie up her hair in rags. Janie was “in the store for him to look at, not those others,” (Hurston 55). Joe becomes jealous that other men are touching Janie’s beautiful hair. Janie putting up her hair shows his insecurity and the power he has over her. The rags represent Joe’s oppression on her freedom, independence, and womanhood. They create boundaries and restrictions that Joe has created for her in life and she struggles to be independent. Following Joe’s death, Janie lets her hair down from the rags to reveal her independence and freedom: “Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging well below her waist. That was the only change people saw in her,” (Hurston 89). Janie burns the rags to burn the power Joe had over her and the restrictions he gave her. Joe took away the meaning of her hair because he was jealous and his insecurities got the best in him. Joe’s death allows Janie to continue thriving as a person and celebrates this by having her hair down, showing her freedom. Double descriptives illustrate how the deaths of Joe and Tea Cake free Janie of the constraints they place on her.
The deaths themselves are dramatization that leads to Janie growing as an individual. At Joe’s funeral, it is the first time Janie enters a period of self-discovery and she starts to express anger towards her nanny: “she had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur dog, and run off down a back road after things,” (Hurston 89). Janie hates her grandmother for manipulating her and subjecting her to pain. Janie being “whipped like a cur dog, and run down off down a back road after things” expresses the dreams she had as a child that was buried by her grandmother. She resents this mistreatment that induces her two marriages to end badly and learns that preserving her innocence depends on how she looks at the world. Janie obtains this power and immediately has the ability to control her own life and live the dreams of love and freedom she has as a child. After Tea Cake’s death, Janie learns that people should go out, live their lives, and learn what it is like to love and be in love. Janie achieves her dream, by not being an object in someone’s life. Despite her sadness, she reveals her strength and sense of self-recognition, (Hurston 191). She finally found a balance between love and realizes what she deserves. Double descriptives and similes are painted in a dramatic way to prove that her life lessons are constructed into the themes of love and ‘mislove’, power, domination, inequality and discrimination throughout the novel.
Despite Janie achieving her dream of finding a relationship with reciprocal love after Tea Cake dies, she realizes her self-worth and what she deserves. With Logan and Joe, she found herself trapped under their power and could not express herself, but Tea Cake treated her as an independent woman.