Their Eyes Were Watching God Critique

The following sample essay on Their Eyes Were Watching God Critique. Barbara Johnson’s critique focuses on the metaphoric, metonymic and voice in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It focuses on the major character, Janie Crawford’s inner and outer change towards her various relationships. She focuses on the strengths, both vocally and physically, gained after her first slap down by her second husband, Joe Starks. Barbara Johnson focuses on the metaphoric meaning of this transformation which was defined as the substitution based on the resemblance or analogy and then she goes on to the metonymic meaning which she defines as the basis of a relation or association other than that similarity.

Paul De Man, a deconstructionist literary critic and theorist, provides a brief summary stating the preference for the metaphor over metonymy by aligning analogy with necessity and contiguity with chance. According to him, “’the element of truth’ is the product of a purely rhetorical and ultimately metonymical, sleight of hand, therefore over turning the traditional hierarchy and deconstructing the very basis for the seductiveness and privilege of metaphor.

” Barbara Johnson pays keen and strict attention to a specific passage in her critique and she also focuses on its figurative structure.

She speaks on Janie’s crucial turning point in relation to Joe and herself. She begins to speak out, defending herself, gaining a “voice” for her inner self. These scenes put Janie to think about the inside state of her marriage. Janie was not about to be completely submissive to Joe without her voice being heard.

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Gradually, Janie “pressed her teeth together” and learnt to hush and the spirit of a happy ending marriage left the bedroom and moved to the parlor.

Johnson stated that “the bed was no longer a daisy-field for her and Joe to play in but it was now transformed into a place where she went and laid down when she was sleepy and tired. ” The relationship had suddenly adapted a change as Janie gained a “voice”. It took a shattered image of Joe, as stated by Johnson, for Janie to see that it was never the flesh and blood figure of her dream. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. According to the critique, “she had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where petals used to be.

She found that she had a host of thoughts she never expressed to him and numerous emotions she had let Joe know about…. an outside now and suddenly she knew not to mix them”(taken from page 48 of the critique). Barbara views the paragraph as an externalization of Janie’s feelings onto the outer surroundings in the form of a narrative of movement from private to public space. While the whole of the figure relates metaphorically, analogically, to the marital situation it is designed to express, it reveals the marriage space to be metonymical, a movement through a series of contiguous rooms.

It is a narrative not of union but of separation centered on an image not of conjugality but of virginity. In Janie, there was still a search for her “voice”. When she realizes that the inner and outer are never the same, she paradoxically begins to speak. Janie’s acquisition of the power to speak allows the reader to sympathize or relate with Janie as she develops her voice and acquires strength to defend her opinions. It must be remembered that the maintenance of sides, metaphor and metonymy (inside and outside), is the very possibility of speaking at all.

The reduction of a course to oneness, identity as it relates to Janie, the reduction of woman to mayor’s wife, has as its necessary consequence aphasia, silence, the loss of the ability to speak. Stretching far beyond Janie’s new wholeness or identity as a character, her increasing ability to speak grows out of her ability not to mix inside with outside, not to pretend that there is no differenc3, but simply to assume and articulate the incompatible forces involved in her own division. The sign of an authentic voice is this not self-identity but self-difference.

Barbara Johnson speaks of how the women’s voices have attained inferiority as it relates to the situation of Janie’s acquisition of her inner and outer voice. Her opinionated statements were shut down by Joe. Johnson then mentions Auerbach’s urge to unify and simplify is an urge to re-subsume female difference under the category of the universal, which has always been obscurely male. The random, trivial and marginal will simply be added to the list of things all men have in common. Auerbach’s then calls for unification and simplification in the province of the white.

If the woman’s voice must be incorporate and articulate division and self-difference, so too has Afro-American literature always had to assume its double-voicedness. Johnson concludes her critique with a brief synopsis of Zora Neale Hurston’s main imitative into writing Their Eyes Were Watching God. She explains that according to her, “there is no message, no theme, no thought; the full range of questions and experiences of Janie’s life are invisible to a mind steeped in maleness as Ellison’s Invisible Man is to minds steeped in whiteness. Barbara Johnson, Metaphor, Metonymy and Voice in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Their Eyes Were Watching God Critique
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