Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Sound of Silence

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston uses language as a tool to show the progression of the story. Throughout the novel, Hurston uses a narrative style that is split between poetic literary prose and the vernacular of Southern blacks. This style emphasizes Janie’s change from immature girl to mature woman, as she struggles to find her voice amidst the bustling throng of her already noisy life. As Janie gets older and wiser, the narration as well as Janie’s own voice change to parallel her own changes. Language and the control of it is Janie’s source of identity and empowerment.

The first chapters of Their Eyes Were Watching God set the framework for how language is to be used in the chapters to come. The story begins in the third person, as a narrator describes the arrival of Janie Starks back to Eatonville. Here the style is full of metaphors, colorful language and other literary devices. Before Janie says a word, we hear the voices of the gossipers on the porch, foreshadowing Janie’s interactions later to come: “A mood come alive. Words walking without masters” (Hurston 4). When Janie begins to tell her story, the narrative style switches to long strings of monologue and dialogue, in the colloquial voice of...

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