Their Eyes Were Watching God is most often celebrated for Huston’s unique use of language. Throughout the novel, she uses an interesting narrative structure, splitting the presentation of the story between high literary narration and idiomatic discourse. The long passages of discourse reveal the culturally rich voices of Janie’s world. The characters speak as do few others in American literature, and their distinctive grammar, vocabulary, and tone mark their individuality.
One of the main symbols in the novel is hair. It is a symbol of Janie’s power and original identity. It demonstrates her individuality and strength in three ways. First, it represents her defiance and independence of community standards. The critique of the townspeople in the beginning of the novel shows that is thought to be undignified for a woman of Janie’s age to wear her hair down. Her refusal to obey these norms reflects her strong and rebellious spirit. Second, her hair is a phallic symbol. Her braid is always described in phallic terms and acts as a symbol of a typically masculine potency and power. This blurs gender lines and threatens Jody. Third, her hair is a symbol of whiteness. Mrs. Tuner worships Janie because of her straight hair and other Caucasian features. Her hair contributes to the normally white man power that she wields.
The pear tree and the horizon are two other symbols in the novel. They represent Janie’s idealized views of nature. When bees interact with flowers of a pear tree, Janie sees a perfect moment in nature full of harmony. She chases after this ideal throughout the rest of the book. The horizon represents the far-off mystery of the natural world, with which she wants to connect. Janie’s hauling of her horizon indicates that she has reached the harmony with nature.
The hurricane is a symbol of the destructive nature. It acts as the opposite of the pear tree and the horizon. The hurricane shows how chaotic the world can be. The hurricane makes the characters question who they are and what their place in the universe is. The impersonal nature of the hurricane is a force of destruction. Characters wonder what kind of world they live in, whether God cares about them, and whether they are in conflict with the world around them. They wonder how they can survive in a world filled with pain and chaos.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is most often celebrated for Huston’s unique use of language. Throughout the novel, she uses an interesting narrative structure, splitting the presentation of the story between high literary narration and idiomatic discourse. The long passages of discourse reveal the culturally rich voices of Janie’s world.