Consider the of motif of sight and seeing in Their Eyes Were Watching God; how does "seeing clearly" or "seeing the truth" help certain characters advance? How does metaphorical blindness cause problems for certain characters (particularly the men)? How is self-perception instrumental?

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Hurston's novel opens with a lyrical meditation on seeing. Men see "ships at a distance" carrying their dreams; when they do not achieve their dreams, they become broken or bitter. For women, the dream becomes a truth that can guide them, as we see with Janie.

A second instance of this motif occurs when Janie discovers that she is black, when (as Alphabet) she searches for herself in the photograph her white playmates have. This moment of recognition creates something like the double consciousness that W.E.B. du Bois speaks of and initiates Janie's and the reader's awareness that the self needs to be integrated in a way in which the inner self and one's outer recognition of self align.

Janie chafes in her first two marriages because of the gap between what she desires and feels about herself and what others see in her. Mrs. Turner further irritates Janie, as she idolizes Janie's physical attributes.

As she grows more independent with Tea Cake, Janie begins to connect the inner and outer selves. In the hurricane, from which the title comes, Janie and Tea Cake confront the storm while "their eyes were watching God." The disastrous aftermath of the storm and Tea Cake's rabies bring Janie home, where she is the object again of others' scornful sight yet also her most triumphant self—pulling her horizon about herself and anticipating a future of self-realization.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 20, 2019
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Perhaps the title of Hurston's book suggests that the vision which Janie needs is one of the soul rather than one of body.  For, it is in the development of her interiority, her inner voice and consciousness, that Janie becomes a whole person, released from the domination of the men in her life. With the aid of Tea Cake, Janie finds her own voice; thus, she becomes her own person, no longer having to cover her luxurious hair, no longer suppressed in her feelings. 

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I would want to argue that there are various moments of this novel when Janie in particular sees her life for what it is and also sees her various husbands for who they are. Blindness or lack of self-perception is key in both of her first two marriages, as both of her husbands display a lack of self-perception that shows they are unable to see themselves in the way that Janie comes to see them. Also, let us remember that Janie achieves a moment of self-perception at the very end of the novel when she is able to look back on all of her experiences and gather them in like a shawl.

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