In Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, what do the first two paragraphs suggest about differences between men and women and the language they use?

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The two opening paragraphs of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God are as follows:

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing...

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The two opening paragraphs of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God are as follows:

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

Here, the differences are explicit.

First, men fail to possess the ability to make decisions about their place in life. Instead, they go where the world takes them. Second, men all possess the same dream, yet they do not actually do anything about chasing the dream. They only possess the dream and do nothing with it.

Women, on the other hand, have power over the dreams of their lives. Women possess this power because they make decisions about life itself. They are able to decide what is important in life, and once they do, they are able to decide the truth behind that particular dream. Women act as active participants in their own lives.

The passage does not make any specific references to the language differences between men and women; yet, one can infer what the author and passage are stating about language. Essentially, men will not say anything which may interfere with his passive lifestyle. Things will be as they are, and there is nothing more to it. Women, on the other hand, will choose to speak up if they witness a wrong being done, even if it is only to dismiss it as meaningless. In order to "remember everything they don't want to forget," they must give the things which they do not want to forget power. To do this, they must speak of these things in order to keep them figuratively alive. By "watering" these ideas with language, they (the "things they don't want to forget") are nourished and kept present.

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The opening two paragraphs of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching Godimply significant differences between men and women:

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For somethey come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

These paragraphs suggest that men, ironically, are less in control of their lives than women are. Men, the paragraphs, suggest are driven and controlled by desires. Sometimes those desires are fulfilled. Often they are not.  In both cases, however, men have little control over the fulfillment of their desires. They find themselves in dependent, passive positions because they define their lives and the value of their lives by looking outside themselves. They are therefore more likely to be disappointed than women are.

Women, the second paragraph suggests, shape their own worlds. They impose their own values on their worlds, even if doing so means neglecting or forgetting unpleasant facts. (Often these unpleasant facts are created by men, as the novel will later show.) By shaping their worlds and lives in their own images, women gain more control over their lives than men typically enjoy.

Ironically, then, in the opening of the novel, the narrator reverses some standard cultural assumptions, especially the assumption that men have greater power than women.  In a sense they do (obviously), and the novel never tries to deny this fact. But the chief male figures in the book are all dead and, in some ways, defeated by the end of the novel, whereas Janie is the one survivor. Her triumph exemplifies the claims made about women in the novel's second paragraph.

The language of the male and female characters does not lend itself to easy generalizations, especially because the three main male characters differ in significant ways. One might generalize by saying that the men often speak with an authority that they don’t always possess, and that the women possess more authority than their speech would sometimes indicate.

 

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