their eyes - Trip Bennewitz February 15, 2007 Their Eyes...

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Trip Bennewitz February 15, 2007 Their Eyes Were Watching God “They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment” (1). Janie, the main character of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God , is the first person the audience sees that is exposed to this “judgment” (1). Even though their remarks about her seem cruel at first, their talk turns out to be necessary. The townspeople are an important part of the novel because they show central traits about Janie and they also act in a way that Janie finds out more about herself. Throughout the book, Janie moves from town to town in Florida during the early 20 th century. Each town brings with it new people and new ways of thinking about Janie. The townspeople do not only talk and act against her, but Janie herself also does the same against them forming a bond between them. They work off each other. Each town brings its own unfairness to Janie based on their own personal background. The difference between the town where the audience first sees Janie, called Eatonville, brings a much different idea of Janie when they talk about her than does the town when she arrives. This is the same idea as when Janie and her third husband Tea Cake move to go work in the Everglades. Even though the towns that she lives in are very different and act different towards her, the audience and Janie herself still realize important things about her that would be left hidden if the town did not help expose them.
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Hurston shows the audience Janie, not entirely through the narrative but through the women and men sitting on their front porches. “They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs” (2). Even though they ask and wonder aloud cruel things about Janie, these wind up as being important facts later. They wonder, “What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? […] What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?. ..” (2). The audience begins to assume certain character traits about Janie through the eyes of the townspeople on the porch. They do not want her to seem as young as she is, since she is in child-like clothes and has her hair down They do this because she, although coming
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their eyes - Trip Bennewitz February 15, 2007 Their Eyes...

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