Their Eyes Were Watching God

In Search of Voice

As the old adage goes, it is not what one says, but how they say it that matters most. In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, the novel’s protagonist, Janie Crawford, is immersed in a journey to establish her voice and, consequently, shape her own identity. Throughout a series of failed relationships, Janie finds herself constantly struggling against domineering male figures who attempt to define her by subjugating her to a role of silence and subservience. Janie finally achieves a strong sense of self by finding the ability to control her voice and articulate herself openly and with confidence. Through the course of the novel, Hurston illustrates the duality of Janie’s voice - the oppressiveness of her silence and the liberation she feels when she reclaims her voice - and parallels this to her self-growth and maturation. Moreover, Hurston manipulates the narrative structure to reinforce this process of self-discovery.

At the outset of the novel, Janie’s silence defines her as a passive individual as she struggles to harness her own voice amidst the influence of those around her. In one instance, Nanny decides that Janie will be married off to Logan Killicks, and while “the vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating...

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