What is the significance of the quotation below, from Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God?
When Janie elopes with Jody, the narrator writes: "With him on it, it sat like some high ruling chair. From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and spring time sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom."
In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character, Janie, decides to abandon her first husband, Logan Killicks, and run off with Joe (Jody) Starks. Her elopement with Starks is described in the following passage:
The morning road air was like a new dress. That made her feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet. After that she came to where Joe Starks was waiting for her with a hired rig. He was very solemn and helped her to the seat beside him. With him on it, it sat like some high, ruling chair. From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom.
This passage is significant for a number of reasons, including the following:
- It opens by mentioning the morning, symbolically a time associated with new beginnings.
- It uses a simile to compare the morning to a “new dress” – again symbolizing a fresh start and a sense of prosperity.
- The apron tied around Janie’s waist is a symbol of her domestic life with Logan Killicks, who treats her almost like a servant rather than like a wife.
- The fact that she unties the apron symbolizes her feeling of liberation.
- The fact that she is said to have “flung” it (rather than letting it fall or dropping it gently) symbolizes the power and energy she now feels, as well as her disdain for her old lifestyle.
- The fact that she “walk[s] on” implies her sense of strength, liberty, and determination.
- The fact that she picks flowers and makes a bouquet symbolizes her renewed sense of beauty, including not only the beauty of nature but her own beauty as well.
- The fact that Starks has hired a rig suggests that he is a man of some financial means.
- The fact that Starks is very solemn suggests his respect for Janie and his courteous treatment of her.
- The fact that he helps her into her seat symbolizes his respect for her and his desire to support her and treat her with dignity.
- The reference to a “ruling chair” implicitly likens Starks to a kind of king, with Janie as his symbolic queen.
- Janie’s thoughts of springtime suggest that she feels she is at the beginning of a very pleasant phase of her life; she has abandoned her symbolic wintertime with Logan Killicks.
- The final sentence reiterates the imagery of springtime and also has subtle sexual connotations.