Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

2650 words - 11 pages

In the book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie Crawford's character changes from the beginning to the end of the novel. At first, Janie conforms to other people's wishes about what she is "supposed" to do and how she is "supposed" to act. She sees herself in terms of other people, but as she matures she becomes more of her own person despite how society and the people around her think. As she progresses through the novel, she becomes less of a conformist in terms of her thought, voice, and action. Each of the different relationships in her life including the Washburns, her Nanny, Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake helps her grow and has an influence on her as she becomes increasingly more independent.Janie is raised with white people, the Washburns, who provide a lot for her, including the expectations of society. Her grandmother works as a nanny for some white children in the Washburn family, and Janie grows up playing with the Washburn children. She calls her grandmother "Nanny" because that is what the other kids call her. Immediately it is evident that Janie is influenced by everyone around her and has not learned to think for herself yet.Even Janie's nickname supplies some insight into her lack of a definitive identity early in her life. People call Janie "Alphabet" (Page 9) because she goes by so many names. Because she starts with no identity, she takes on the identity of those around her. Janie does not even know that she is black until a photograph of her is taken with the other children. Until the age of six, she simply assumes she is white because that is how everyone else is and says: "Ah thought Ah wuz just like de rest." (Page 9) Even though they may not mean to, the Washburns set the foundation of how Janie thinks about herself. At the school, the other black children are jealous of Janie because she wears the Washburn children's hand-me-downs and these clothes are much nicer than what the other black children wear. Although she is made fun of, she is treated to luxury above what the common black child experiences. So even in the beginning of Janie's life, there is the idea that Janie is above commonness.The relationship between Janie's grandmother and herself also reflects this notion that Janie deserves better. Janie has been raised by her Nanny since childhood, and comes to trust and love her very much. As a result, the opinions and the attitudes that her Nanny have about life become important to Janie as well.Janie's grandmother's view on being able to voice opinions also played a major role on Janie's future interactions. Nanny talks to Janie about what it was like to be black and to always be suppressed by white people during slavery. She tells Janie that she never had a voice, a chance to say what she believed in. She wants Janie to have this voice that she never had: "'You know, honey, us colored folks is branches without roots and that makes things come round in queer ways. You in particular....

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