The use of race in Their eyes were watching god Essay

This essay has a total of 874 words and 4 pages.

The use of race in Their eyes were watching god



The Use of Race in Their Eyes Were Watching God
This novel, while poetically conveying a black woman's pursuit of true love, seriously
addresses society's ability to be judgmental and oppressive. Gender, race, economic
security, and social stratification share equally important roles in the development of
the main character, Janie. Hurston vividly describes how each qualification specifically
affects the character, although the racial implications are much more subtle. This
subtlety allows the reader to mistakenly perceive indifferent or positive feelings towards
the novel’s black community.

Hurston initially establishes the ideal unimportance of race by using Janie's innocent
childhood memory. Janie painfully recalls Mr. Washburn, who is the father of the family
with whom they live, abusively laughing at her belief of being the same as his white
children. She also remembers being teased by the other black children for her clothing,
which is better than others’ because hers is the Washburn children’s old clothing. This
recollection is multiply used by Hurston. It capitalizes children’s acceptance of people
for their actions, which is surpassingly more believable than portraying adults with the
same feelings. It displays the dependence of black people on white people for success.
Finally, it instates the Washburn family as the representation of white culture;
accordingly initiating a negative undertone towards Janie’s ethnicity. However, these
prejudices and their undermining effect depicted within the novel are soundly contrasted
by Janie’s peaceful disposition at the end of her narration.

Hurston masterfully uses the emotional responses of the black characters, specifically
pertaining to successful and potentially successful endeavors of Joe, as metaphors of
society’s prejudice. The initial astonishment of the black characters to Joe’s monetary
holdings and accomplishments deftly conveys this idea. Hurston again attaches a plethora
of meaning to these scenes. Joe is followed by the men from town, while going to purchase
the land, because they do not believe a black man could have money. His house’s
description, as overly opulent and making the others seem as servant’s quarters, is
parallel to the rich white men of other towns. He faults the lazy black men for the
town’s lack of development, portraying the incapability of black men for leadership. He
is revered by the town when he is present, then slandered when he is no longer able to
hear them. Despite being freed from slavery, during the early 1900’s, black people’s
lives are mostly unchanged. The similarity between their work now as farmhands and
formally as slaves is an active personification of this theory. The only successful black
man is Joe. The other black characters either are sharecroppers or are menially employed.
This explains the contempt the two men on the porch have for Joe, which is the same
contempt that they would have for a white man. Black men seldom had the opportunity, but
more importantly the financial ability, to own property. This makes wealthy and
successful black men extremely scarce. White men owned virtually everything. Therefore,
Joe’s entirety equally represents the dominating white man and the extremely unlikely
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