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Symbols of Feminine Power in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Symbols of Feminine Power in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Much evidence supports Saturday Review writer Doris Grumbach’s opinion that Their Eyes Were Watching God is “the finest black novel of its time” and “one of the finest of all time” (Washington, 4). Zora Neale Hurston’s text is highly regarded because of the meaning and purpose it conveys using poetic language and folkloric imagery. It is the heroic story of Janie Crawford’s search for individuality, self-realization, and independence from the patriarchal forces of her time. Because the novel is mainly concerned with Janie’s many relationships within a male-dominated context, it is only logical to take feminist view of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Throughout my reading of this particular novel I have identified the images of porches, trees, and the horizon as symbols of power in favor of Janie Crawford’s search for a feminist identity. To support this opinion, I have chosen to utilize the feminist / reader response theories formulated by Judith Fetterley in Introduction to the Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction.

Fetterley’s writing is useful for the study of Their Eyes Were Watching God because of her discussion of power and its relation to women. In her introduction she explains the relationship between the two classifications of gender (male versus female) and the ideology of America. According to Fetterley, “American literature is male,” and “to be American is male” (991). Unfortunately, this type of philosophy has existed for many years and still exists today. In order for a change to occurs, Fetterley says that readers must “examine American fictions in light of how attitudes toward women shape their form and content” because it…

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Works Cited

Donlon, Jocelyn Hazelwood. “Porches: Stories: Power: Spatial and Racial Intersections in Faulkner and Hurston.”Journal of American Culture (1996): 95-110. Online. Internet. 8 December 1999. Available:…GT.

A Feminist Reading of Updike’s Rabbit, Run

A Feminist Reading of Rabbit, Run

I do not like Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. This creation of John Updike, this man who abandons his pregnant wife and young child, and his alliance to the late 1950’s feeling of unrest and rebellion makes me angry. Many times throughout this novel my cheeks flushed furiously and I could not contain my exasperated sighs. When I read the last sentences of Rabbit, Run and closed the book, I was disappointed. It was not because Updike fails to make it clear where or to whom Rabbit runs (home to his wife? back to the prostitute?). Surprisingly, I was most disappointed because the novel had come to an end. Although my reaction to Rabbit was negative, it was a very strong reaction; I had become emotionally involved. Because Updike created this anti-heroic but fascinating main character, I was absorbed into his world. I do not like Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, but because Updike’s writerly skill, I understand him. And, by understanding him, I am able to realize the importance his place is among the most influential (particularly American) literary characters.

Part of the reason that Updike’s novel (and the subsequent three Rabbit novels to follow) has become such an essential piece of literature in the American tradition is Rabbit himself. Although he is not likeable, there are various important aspects and depths to the character of Harry Angstrom that cannot be overlooked.

Some critics choose to look at the surface and explore Rabbit’s nature comparatively with rabbits (the animal). There are many instances when we do see Rabbit acting much like his namesake. For example when he visits his parents home Updike describes this in very rabbit-like terms:

Rabbit stealthily approaches hi…

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…h him for anything.

Works Cited

Detweiler, Robert. John Updike. Indianapolis: Indiana University, 1984. 33-45.

Kielland-Lund, Erik. “The Americanness of Rabbit, Run: A Transatlantic View.” New Essays on Rabbit, Run. Ed. Stanley Trachtenberg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 77-94.

O’Connell, Mary. Updike and the Patriarchal Dilemma. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996. 13-36.

Pinsker, Sanford. “Restlessness in the 1950s: What Made Rabbit Run?” New Essays on Rabbit, Run. Ed. Stanley Trachtenberg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 53-76.

Stevick, Philip. “The Full Range of Updike’s Prose.” New Essays on Rabbit, Run. Ed. Stanley Trachtenberg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 31-52.

Updike, John. Rabbit, Run. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1960.

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