Nature of Living Essay
“In Zora Neale Hurston’s, Their Eyes Were Watching God, nature is used as both a plot device and a metaphor. The changes of seasons, weather, and time of day hold a significant metaphorical purpose in the novel. Hurston uses the pear tree, the horizon, the lake, and the hurricane to represent the different aspects of Janie’s life as she becomes a woman and begins new relationships..
Hurston uses the pear tree as a symbol of Janie’s womanhood. Hurston writes, “…ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery,” (Hurston, 2004, p. 42). The bloom of the pear tree signifies Janie’s awaking as a woman. Janie is curious of the changes happening to her and yearns to know more. Her curiosity leads her to trouble when she allows Johnny Taylor to kiss her. This causes Nanny to quickly force Janie into an unhappy marriage. It can be inferred that Janie and Logan Killicks are married in the late spring or early summer, as it was spring when Johnny kissed Janie, and when Janie visits Nanny she and Logan have been married for two and a half months (Hurston, 2004, p. 54). As the pear blooming season ends in April, it signified that Janie’s newfound femininity has been stifled by Logan.
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The horizon is used to symbolize the realm of possibility and dreams. Janie dreams of having a happy, loving marriage. When Janie meets Joe Starks she thinks, “…he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance,”(Hurston, 2004, p. 61). Joe is not represented by blooming trees because Janie is no longer a teenager, she is a woman and has grown and learned from her marriage to Logan. Joe is represented by the horizon, however, because he holds the chance for the love that Janie has been searching for. As wrote by Hubbard, “The polarities represented by Nanny and Janie in her movement toward the horizon stem from Janie’s desire to seek an authentic place for an expression of the autonomy and independence of her consciousness,” (Hubbard, 1993, p. 1). Janie finally sees her chance to take control of her love life and move towards the horizon.
The lake symbolizes Janie’s hardships as she became a woman. The calm waters when they first arrive at Lake Okeechobee represents Janie’s childhood, when she was young and naive. Until her metaphorical blossoming with the pear tree at age sixteen, Janie had idealistic visions of love and marriage. She believes that a marriage is full of love and happiness, and is calm and content. Throughout Janie’s relationships, she learns that while there is calm, there are also great, rushing waters, conflicts that threaten to ruin the relationship. Hurston writes, “Ten feet higher and as far as they could see the muttering wall advanced before the braced-up waters like a road crusher on a cosmic scale,”(Hurston, 2004, p. 206). The wall of water represents the fights, miscommunications, and mistreatments Janie’s husbands put her through, threatening to crush Janie’s spirit.”