In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston shows how
the lives of American women changed in the early 20th century. Zora Neale
Hurston creates a character in her own likeness in her masterpiece, Their Eyes
Were Watching God. By presenting Janie's search for identity, from her
childbirth with Nanny to the death of Tea Cake, Hurston shows what a free
southern black women might have experienced in the early decades of the century.
To the racial ties that would affect Janie all the way through this life long
Janie's search for identity actually started long before she was born.
Because Janie's search is her family's search. Nanny and Janie's mom gave Janie
a reason to search. They were always held back by their owners, and their owners
took advantage of them, and raped them. They raped them of their identity.
signifies to evade the realities of her life and the life of Janie. When Nanny
says, "Thank yuh, Massa Jesus," she is illustrating that although she is no
longer a slave, the slave consciousness has caused her to view even her
relationship with the deity about slave and master. This makes Janie the leader
of her family's search. However Nanny realized this, and when she saw that Janie
was old enough for love she had her married. This guaranteed that Janie would
not continue a loss of identity.
Even as a young girl, living in the materialistic world of her Nanny and
her first husband, Logan Killicks, Janie chooses to listen to "the words of the
trees and the wind" (23-24). This is the first evidence of her searching beyond
her boring life. This then leads to her everyday life left empty, because she is