Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Use of Name Significance in Their Eyes Were Watching God

With their significance ranging from one’s place of origin to one’s occupation, last names have been used to distinguish and describe individuals for centuries. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, the author, experiments and utilizes name significance as a means of characterization. Throughout the course of the novel, Janie Mae Crawford, the main protagonist, goes through three marriages. Each of her husbands, Logan Killicks, Jody Starks, and Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods, boast significant names that reflect their personalities and their treatment of Janie. Using this unique form of characterization, Hurston is able to portray Janie’s values and ideals by comparing them with those represented in her husbands’ names.

Hurston uses name significance to demonstrate the conflicting personalities of Janie Crawford and Logan Killicks. When Janie is but sixteen years old, Nanny, her grandmother, pressures her into marrying Logan Killicks. Nanny, approaching death, simply desires to assure Janie’s security by marrying her off to a wealthy man. However, in doing so, Nanny ignores her sentiments altogether. Accordingly, Janie, who previously believed that “husbands and wives always loved each other” (21), never...

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