Essay about A Feminist Reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God

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A Feminist Reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God

In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the reader is treated to an enthralling story of a woman’s lifelong quest for happiness and love. Although this novel may be analyzed according to several critical lenses, I believe the perspectives afforded by French feminists Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray have been most useful in informing my interpretation of Hurston’s book. In “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Cixous discusses a phenomenon she calls antilove that I have found helpful in defining the social hierarchy of women and relationships between them in the novel. In addition, Cixous addresses the idea of woman as caregiver, which can be illustrated through the
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The neighbors seem to feel little sympathy for her, and at times even appear to derive joy from her misfortunes. In the words of Lulu Moss, “She ain’t even worth talkin’ after. She sits high, but she looks low. Dat’s what Ah say ‘bout dese ole women runnin’ after young boys” (3). The women also resent Pheoby’s display of compassion towards Janie. “She left the porch [with them] pelting her back with unasked questions. They hoped the answers were cruel and strange” (4).

Ironically, Janie experiences similar treatment from these same neighbors years before, when she first moves to Eatonville with Jody. Because of her association with the dynamic, all-powerful Joe Starks, she is treated differently and feels increasingly alienated from the other women in the town. “Janie soon began to feel the impact of awe and envy against her sensibilities. The wife of the Mayor was not just another woman as she had supposed. She slept with authority and was part of it in the town’s mind. She couldn’t get but so close to most of them in spirit” (46).

Probably the most blatant example of antilove occurs in chapter fifteen, when “Janie learned what it was like to be jealous” (137). Even though Janie realizes Tea Cake loves her and would never want to be with another woman, she can’t help being envious of Nunkie, a flirtatious young girl who works with them in the bean fields. Tea Cake repeatedly denies any involvement with Nunkie, yet Janie persists in accusing him

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