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A Feminist Reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God

A Feminist Reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God

In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the reader is treated to an enthralling story of a woman’s lifelong quest for happiness and love. Although this novel may be analyzed according to several critical lenses, I believe the perspectives afforded by French feminists Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray have been most useful in informing my interpretation of Hurston’s book. In “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Cixous discusses a phenomenon she calls antilove that I have found helpful in defining the social hierarchy of women and relationships between them in the novel. In addition, Cixous addresses the idea of woman as caregiver, which can be illustrated through the character of Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God. On the other hand, Luce Irigaray discusses the different modes of sexual desire of men and women in her essay, “The Sex Which is Not One.” Many examples supporting and refuting her claims can be found in the novel. According to Cixous, the most heinous crime committed by men against women is the promotion of antilove. “Insidiously, violently, they have led [women] to hate women, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their immense strength against themselves, to be the executants of their virile needs” (1455). Their Eyes Were Watching God offers many examples of women in vicious contention with one another, usually involving or benefiting a man. Janie is confronted by the malice of her female neighbors in the very first chapter of the novel, as she arrives back in Eatonville after her adventure with Tea Cake. “The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if i…

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… 1930’s can also be applied today, within the context of my own personal life and that of the surrounding society. The challenges Janie struggles with as she moves through her life are the same struggles every woman, no matter where or when she lives, have had to face. In my opinion, it is this universality that renders Their Eyes Were Watching God and its companion criticisms so valuable for readers.

Works Cited

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 1454-1466.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998.

Irigaray, Luce. “That Sex Which is Not One.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 1467-1471.

Invisible Man Essay: The Phases of Invisibility

The Phases of Invisibility in Invisible Man

To be invisible is to be unable to be seen by anyone without artificial aid. The invisible man is more impossible to locate than the proverbial needle in a haystack. In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the main character, I., progresses through various phases of symbolic invisibility.

The story begins with I. recounting the various steps and incidents that led him to realize his invisibility. I.’s grandfather was a meek and humble man, and therefore surprised I. when he told him to “live with your head in the lion’s mouth, overcome ’em with yeses, agree ’em to death and destruction.” This statement is the ever-present current that guides I. to his eventual self-discovery. It haunts him beyond his discovery and even remains after his acceptance of his situation, where the reader realizes that even I. does not fully understand his grandfather’s words. The battle royal serves to open his eyes, although only slightly, only to be re-closed, because I. still gives his acceptance speech to the crowd of prominent white men from the town. These are the same men who were moments ago screaming “let me at that big nigger”. Yet he still assumes these men respect him for his intelligence, and are taking him seriously. Upon reflection he realizes that this is when he really started running for the white man. He was playing their games, trying to grab the electrified money, not looking at the naked white woman, these men really started him running and taught him their game he was expected to play. The next big shock came after I.’s encounter with Mr. Norton, a prominent white man and huge contributor to the University he was attending. He takes Mr. Norton into the old slave…

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…ntinues on to explore his newfound knowledge. There is a hope for those that are invisible, which so many are, that you may be able to come to terms with your transparency.

Works Cited

Bellow, Saul. “Man Underground” Review of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Commentary. June 1952. 1st December 1999< /50s/bellow-on-ellison.html

Earl, Gerald. “Decoding Ralph Ellison” Essay obtained from Summer ’97. 30 November. <

Howe, Irving. “Black Boys and Native Sons” English Dept. at Univ. Penn. 1 December 1999 <

Howe, Irving. “Review of: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man” Pub. The Nation. 10 May 1952. 30 November 1999. <

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