In Their Eyes Were Watching God, how does Janie gain self knowledge?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Janie gains self-knowledge as a result of her experiences with love and life. 

At the end of the novel, Janie understands what life offers.  She has gained this insight because of her relationships. When she speaks at the end of the novel, self-awareness is evident:

Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.

Janie's understanding about her own identity is evident.  She recognizes the need to stand apart from conformist notions of the good.  Janie's experiences have taught her that little is gained from living the life that others wish her to live.  She insists to Pheoby that she has to "tell 'em" from her own experiences, not from another's.  

Janie has also gained the knowledge that sees life and love as dynamic, like "de sea"; she understands the changing nature of identity.  She has gained an appreciation for the diversity of experiences that defines human beings, elements that are "different with every shore."  The movement and constant shifting, essential parts of her life, have provided a reservoir from which Janie has gained self-knowledge.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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