What themes does Hurston expose throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God?What are the main themes and explain?

Expert Answers
copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many possible themes present throughout this novel. I'll focus on three here:

  1. the finding of one's voice and self-identity
  2. the role and power of storytelling
  3. the ever-present influence of racism

Throughout the novel, Janie is on a quest to find her true self. As readers we see this primarily through her struggle to find and exert her own voice, particularly in response to townspeople of Eatonville. We watch Janie mature from a young woman who isn't allowed to speak by her "big voice" obsessed husband to a wise woman who understands when and how to use her voice and her insight into her own identity to lead others.

We also encounter the power of storytelling throughout the novel. From the shifting narration--blurring from a standard English speaking narrator to Janie's own voice telling the story-- to the stories told by the various characters, to the opening image of the women of Eatonville gossiping on their front porch, storytelling and its power to both inspire and tear down an individual's life is explored.

Racism and its effects on African Americans are also addressed. Although Hurtson handles the topic far more subtly than many other contemporary authors, the effects of white racism on African Americans and racism among African Americans is depicted throughout the plot of the story.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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