Their Eyes Were Watching God

by: Zora Neale Hurston

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The tone of Their Eyes Were Watching God is both sympathetic and affirming. From the very beginning, the narrator describes Janie as having “glossy leaves and bursting buds” and wanting “to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her.” The narrator is compassionate toward Janie’s lifelong wrestling with self-actualization and her desire for independence, describing Janie’s painful marriages to Logan and Jody not as choices to be condemned, but as significant stepping-stones toward her life with Tea Cake, and ultimately, her own self-discovery after Tea Cake’s death. This sympathetic affirmation toward Janie is seen most clearly at the end of the novel, when the narrator describes how Janie defends herself in the courtroom after shooting Tea Cake. Instead of depicting Janie’s defense through dialogue, the narrator takes over, saying “First thing she had to remember was she was not at home. She was in the courthouse fighting something and it wasn’t death. It was worse than that. It was lying thoughts.” In framing Janie this way, the narrator commiserates with Janie’s internal battle, and positions her as undoubtedly innocent, despite the “lying thoughts” of those accusing her in the courtroom.