Symbolism in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Essay by thekingandqueenA-, December 2008

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In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston uses symbols, the pear tree, her hair, and the hurricane, to depict the different stages in Janie’s progression to find her identity. This journey transformed her into a strong, enduring woman. Young Janie was called by many names. Then, when she sees herself in a photograph, she realizes she is black, unlike the rest. This lack of known identity sent Janie on the path toward finding her identity. She becomes attracted to the pear tree, discovering more about herself. The symbol of the pear tree represents that she wants to experience the good part of life, the bloom, and to be able to live the way she desired to. Janie dreams of a distant ideal; Janie must endure more stages full of obstacles before she can reach her dreams. This is the first stage where she realizes that she lacks knowledge about herself and starts to piece together what she knows of her identity.

This draws her into the journey to find her identity.

In the journey to reach her dreams of the pear tree ideal, her hair is a major symbol. Janie is restricted from showing her hair by her husband, Jody. This demonstrates Jody’s actions to restrict Janie from self-expression; because of this, Janie is incapable of achieving her dreams at this time. The passing of her husband does not yield a time of mourning for her, rather the ability to pursue her dreams, where she was able to let down her hair. This marks the advancement to a stage of Janie from the oppressed woman to a one that had the power to achieve her “pear tree vision.”The symbol of the hurricane represents the final stage where she found her identity, and through doing so, fully evolved into...