What are the advantages and disadvantages of the author's choice of narrator in Their Eyes Were Watching God?

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copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the clear advantage to Janie as a primary character and narrator of her own story is that as readers we get to witness her journey--and all the emotions that accompany it--first hand. It is hard to imagine the raw, emotional impact of such scenes as Janie "ironing and starching her face" at Joe's funeral, or her blossoming love for Tea Cake, or her joy in being "down on the muck" without the lyrical language in which Janie imagines her own story. I simply do not think the novel would hold as much power over us or hold its place in the literary canon if we didn't hear the story in Janie's own voice.

However, this certainly comes at a cost as well and there are some disadvantages to using Janie as a narrator. Some scenes are almost painfully underdeveloped--in part because of Janie's own naivete: her childhood on the plantation, her grandmother's death, her experiences in the Everglades, and--most importantly--her own trial. A third person, omniscient narrator could have certainly conveyed more insight into the elements of the story and allowed Hurston to offer more social commentary embedded within the story.


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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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