Their Eyes Were Watching God

What do you think of Hurston’s decision to tell Janie’s story through the use of flashback? How does her choice affect the audience’s reaction/reception of the novel? Does it strengthen her message or weaken it?

Why tell the story of Janie?

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Hurston's use of multiple perspective in the novel is one of the most fascinating elements in it. Janie's story, while incredibly original and colorful, can certainly be seen as an allegory for an African-American population that learns to persevere in the face of injustice and cruelty, both from a prejudiced society and the tragic unfairness of life itself. By showing Janie returning at the beginning in such a colorful way - she strolls through the town like a returned hero, oblivious or uncaring about what gossip it might cause - the rest of the novel is framed with our awareness that no matter what happens, she will persevere. In a way, her journey is one of discovering independence. Until Tea Cake, Janie has trouble asserting her independence and is instead defined by the men she chooses. But when she and Tea Cake go through trouble in the Everglades and she has to shoot him, she has finally found through necessity the strength to be a full individual. By framing the story this way - starting with the hero's return - the reader understands throughout that this is not a tragedy but a triumph, albeit one permeated with a deep sadness. We always know Janie will not die, and so are led to read her life as a woman's perseverance.