The opening scene of Their Eyes Were Watching God provides the lens through which the narrative of the novel is viewed.
The opening scene introduces us to Janie, an independent woman who has defied all that has been expected of her. With such a powerful, self-reliant, and markedly different female character, Zora Neale Hurston may have wished to alert readers to the direction in which the main character would develop. With Janie's return to her hometown, we witness her defiance of the traditional notions of love and living—and as a result, we recognize that the rest of the story will explain to us how Janie became such a woman. Our understanding of Janie's ultimate success colors the way we perceive her struggles.
In Chapter 1 as Janie passes down the street, the onlookers of the town criticize this independent woman:
Where's all dat money her husband took and died and left her? ...why she don't stay in her class?
Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off her...
(The entire section contains 2 answers and 519 words.)