Symbolism in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Essay by yoder84High School, 11th gradeA+, June 2004

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Symbolism is shown everyday in life through many different things. What people wear and how they act symbolize who they are. The way they treat people or react to others is a way people can judge their personality. In the book Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses three main ideas of symbolism: the pear tree, Janie's name, and her hair.

Janie's sixteenth summer opens a new perspective as she sits beneath a pear tree time after time. She starts to question her life and her purpose. She desires knowledge that comes with time and experience. To her the pear tree was a fountain of mystery. The pear tree symbolized virginity and sexual awakening. The curiosity that came from the beginning of the brown stems blossoming into a new life made conflict between having a choice to do something or being held back.

Janie's name also symbolizes who she is.

When she was a child her friends and family called her alphabet because there were so many things people called her. Janie was different from all the other kids; she was black but didn't know it. Her nanny was the only one who called her by her name. When Janie's nanny marries her off to Logan Killicks she is belittled by him when he doesn't call her by her name. He calls her LilBit and other small names that downsized her character. When Janie runs off with Jody he treats her good for a while and then loses respect for her because of his superiority over the town. After Jody dies she meets Tea Cake which calls her Miz Janie to respect her.

Her hair is another object of symbolism. It represents a strong sense of character and sexuality that shows the beauty that had been hidden.