Their Eyes Were Watching God

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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There is no better way to learn a person's deepest thoughts and ideas than by peering into their diary. For this assignment I have chosen to write an entry into Nanny's diary. Although she dies early in the book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, she is the guiding force which shapes the protagonist's views on life. The language will be simple, not highly elevated or formal, because Nanny was not educated. Therefore, just about anyone can pick it up, read it, and understand exactly what was going through Nanny;s mind. Through this assignment I hope to allow Nanny's true self come out. I want anyone who reads this to see to see that Nanny's experience as a slave stamped her world-view with a strong concern for financial security, respectability and upward mobility. I also want people to see that although her views often clashed with Janie's independence and desire to experience the world, they always carried the best of intentions.

She was a strong, hardworking woman, whose only care in life was the well being and success of her granddaughter.

Diary Entry At my age, I really shouldn't be wasting my time writing in a journal. I should instead be washing the dirty clothes or getting supper ready for my Janie. I can honestly think of about fifty more productive things that I could be doing at this very moment. However, the truth is that my heart has such a burden that I must find a way to put out this pain that burns my insides. I have reached. That age from which there is no return and after which nothing more than death can be expected. These thoughts cloud my mind each day and the idea of my poor Janie remaining alone in this world haunts me. What will she do when I am gone, when I am no longer by her side to guide her every step, share her laughs and wipe her tears? I am all she knows, since her mother left her shortly after she was brought into this world. She will not survive all alone in this cruel world; she'll be torn apart by others.

I used to belong to this married couple. Yes "belong." I was a slave. I worked hard on their plantation, not resting a single day. One day my master took me by force and gave me a brutal beating. Several months later I gave birth to my master's child. I named the beautiful gray eyed babe Leafy. When she was but one week of age the master's wife came to see me , angry as ever. She questioned me, with "nigger, whut's yo' babydoin' wid gray eyes and yaller hair?" (17). The inevitable had happened, she had realized it was her husband's child and was ready to beat me to death. "She kept on astin me how come mah baby look white" (17). She asked me many, many times as if she had just gotten used to saying it. Not soon enough, she grew tired and promised to have me licked to death the next morning and my Leafy sold into slavery.

I grabbed my baby without thinking twice and left on that cold winter night. I made it to the swamp by the river determined to hide there for as long as possible. "Ah hide in dere day and night and suckled de baby every time shae start to cry, fo fear somebody might hear her and Ah'd get found" (18).

The Lord protected us until the day I heard us slaves were being set free. So I placed Leafy in a tree and went down to find out if it was true. Sho enough we were being set fre and the men "buried their swords in de ground to show they was never to fight about slavery no mo" (19). I decided I wouldn't marry anyone cause I didn't want nobody mistreating my baby. Then I went to live with some good white people out in West Florida. There I worked hard and devoted my life to making Leafy happy. "Ah put her put her in schoool when it got so it was a school to put her in. Ah, was 'spectin' to make a schoolteacher outa her" (19). One day she came home from school and told me that her teacher raped her. She was only seventeen! How could he do that to mah po baby? From that rape something good did come: my reason for living, Janie, was born. Soon afterward Leafy became a drunkard and left Janie in my care.

All the hopes and dreams that I had for Leafy had gone down the drain, but now I could focus on helping Janie succeed. I have only wanted the best for my granddaughter. I have always shielded her from harm. But now, oh Lord the unstoppable has happened. She has become a woman. Though she does not want to admit it. I know she is a woman. I caught her kissin on some boy who could not bring her any good. Now I have to force her into a marriage that will bring her social and economic stability. I don't want anyone laying a hand on her, or mistreating her like they did me and her mother. What do I do? I hate to see her cry, but I know I have to do it. She must marry Logan Killicks and that is final. Its for her own good.

Yours truly, Nanny Nanny narrates the story of her life. She carefully explains the passage of life between three generations: her own, Leafy's and Janie's. In this account one can clearly see the good heart of this hardworking, strong-willed woman. She knows that death is just around the corner and has accepted it, however she must now over look that minor detail in order to fully focus on Janie's future. Nanny has done just about everything she could to bring Janie the happiness that was torn away from her and Leafy, but now she must take a final step. She hopes Janie will learn to love this man, but for the time being, it is all she could do to ensure Janie will be well taken care of when she dies.