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Literary Analysis of Zora Neale Hurston

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Literary Analysis of Zora Neale Hurston

Violence has played a pivotal role in society since its beginnings, and with that in mind it is fitting that Zora N. Hurston includes violence as a motif in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The protagonist, Janie Mae Crawford, led a life full of struggles and hardships, but she tried to do the best she could to achieve love and happiness. Although she tried to better her disposition throughout her life, violence prevailed as a determining factor of her actions. In "Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Huston uses violence to manifest Janie Crawford's conformity and submission throughout her life. There are numerous examples throughout novel that accurately qualify with this statement.

Long before Janie was even born, violence forced her family to make decisions that directly impacted Janie. Not on only was her grandmother, Nanny, raped by her slave master, but Janie's own mom was raped by her school teacher. "He had done raped mah baby and run on off just before day, (pg 18)" exclaimed Nanny. The fact that the matriarchs of Janie's family went through such horrors directly causes Janie to conform to the world around her. Without father around, and a derelict mother, as well, Janie is left with a void that is filled, but only partially, by the love of her grandmother. This means that Nanny was Janie's everything and therefore had a large influence on Janie's life and the decisions she made. When Nanny became aware of the fact that Janie had been with Johnny Taylor, out of Nanny's own need for security due to the fact that she and her daughter had been raped, she quickly married Janie off to the safe and reliable Logan Killicks. Janie obeys and weds Logan, though she was doubtful that she genuinely cared for him. This is a prime example of how violence inevitably forced Janie to submissively live her life, my marrying a man she didn't truly love.

Zora N. Hurston wanted the reader to believe that Janie has finally found love when she elopes with Joe Starks, but this sense of belonging was quickly eradicated. As one saw, Jody soon became a belligerent man, who beat Janie more than once throughout the story in his quest for ultimate power over her. These beatings may not hurt Janie as much as Jody would like them to due to the fact that she is stronger than the average woman, in both a physical and psychological sense, but the beatings do force her to become obedient. "Go fetch me de checker-board and de checkers, (pg 71)" is Jody's response to Janie after she criticized the men on the store porch. Janie complies with his request, not because she wants to, but because the previous beatings have turned Janie into a woman who complies with her man, even though that is the antithesis of her personality. It is evident that Jody's beatings force Janie to submit to his trivial desires.

The violence that demonstrates Janie's conformity is not only physical, psychological. Hurston says while describing Mrs. Turner's ideologies, "Anyone who looked more white folkish than herself was better than she was in her criteria, and therefore it was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was cruel to those more negroid than her self." The fact that Janie surrounded herself with Mrs. Turned and sat passively listening to such blasfomous claims shows her submission. Further more, she allowed Mrs. Turner to tarnish Tea Cake with her words and does nothing about it herself. She simply allowed



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