Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Double Consciousness as an Indicator of Growth

Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, utilizes a struggle W.E.B. Du Bois describes as "double consciousness" to chart the journey of Janie Crawford into selfhood. In "The Souls of Black Folk," Du Bois describes African Americans as both gifted and cursed with "two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings" because of their race. Hurston's text applies this theory, not to the struggle of finding selfhood within the demands of two differing races, but to the struggle of a woman searching for selfhood amidst the differing demands of society and herself. Early in the novel, Janie plays roles that others expect her to play, rather than fulfilling her own desires. This disparity between her needs and her actions creates a division in her, leaving her with two selves: the self who follows society's expectations, and the self with its own desires. Janie's journey toward selfhood reveals itself in the gradual dissipation of the submitting self, and the emancipation of the inner one.

The text first establishes the division between Janie's two selves when Nanny discovers Janie kissing Johnny Taylor. In her heart, Janie wants to be a "tree in bloom" and...

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