In Their Eyes Were Watching God, what are the differences and similarities among Janie, Nanny, and Mrs. Turner? What does each of them represent in American society?

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the differences and similarities between Janie, Nanny, and Mrs. Turner link to their beliefs on marriage, skin color, and socioeconomics. In American society, they could represent matriarchy, colorism, and liberation.

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One way to think about the similarities and differences between Janie, Nanny (Janie’s grandmother), and Mrs. Turner is to think about their divergent perspectives on marriage. Nanny is the reason why Janie marries Logan. Janie doesn’t want to marry Logan, but she does so at Nanny’s behest. Nanny wants Janie to get married because she doesn’t want her to become involved with a "trashy n****r.” Mrs. Turner, too, shares Nanny’s prejudices in a way. Mrs. Turner thinks Janie is too good for Tea Cake. Mrs. Turner wants Janie to marry Mrs. Turner’s lighter-skinned brother. Janie does not share these prejudices. She is neither discriminative nor classist. She sticks with Tea Cake.

To think about what each character represents in American society, identify specific tropes and figures as they relate to Black women in the United States. Nanny could represent the wise, practical, matriarchal-type figure. What concerns her aren’t abstract ideas like love but concrete things like ensuring Janie can obtain a semblance of security and stability. Mrs. Turner, meanwhile, could represent colorism. Her light-skinned bias makes her out to be the kind of Black person who discriminates against darker-skinned Black people. Finally, it’s possible to argue that Janie represents the modern Black woman. She symbolizes the possibility that a Black woman can find love, regardless of class or skin color, and live a dynamic life.

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