Chapter 1-4 (Their Eyes were watching God)


Janie and Offred - differences and similarities



Both want to strive for independence

Offred speaks in a first person narrative- account can be biased but also reliable

Power for both people is repressed

Janie speaks in first person and third person

Able to find their voices and give their opinion, speak out against the regime


Retaining information until the end of the novel, don't find out what happened to them


More of a motive


Physically grow up


Both characters experience losses in their life

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Define 'Folklore' and 'Tradition'

What is folklore? Traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of people, which are transmitted in an oral way.

'Folk'= a group of two or more people who share a culture. You can be part of more than one group

'Lore'= a body of traditions held by a particular group and passed from person to person (usually by word of mouth

How would you define tradition? Customs or beliefs which are transmitted from generation to generation. Cultural behaviour that has continuity

How is this different to fashion? It is constantly changing

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Key Terminology

Eye Dialect: A technique used by both folklorists and fiction writers to simulate speech as it actually spoken rather than in its most polished, abstract, "correct" form. Eye dialect seeks to recreate the pronunciation, pacing, and syntax of oral language by deliberately altering "proper" spelling, sentence structure, and rules of grammar.

Oral tradition: The oral tradition of storytelling was how people passed onto each other prior to written text. As well as stories, this also incorporates music, song and poetry

Aphorism: A memorable saying that expresses a general truth, or an astute observation.

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Historical Importance of Author

As well as being a novelist, Zora Neale Hurston, was also a folklorist and anthropologist. She collected black Southern folklore, folk songs and sayings.

In Their eyes were watching God, Hurston uses eye dialect to try and recreate the feeling of black Southern storytelling through Janie telling her story to Pheoby in the oral tradition.

Hurston included many aphorisms throughout her novel, which gives the reader an insight into the 'truths' that people in this folk culture believe in.

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Establishing the Novel

Establishing the Novel

Hurston opens the novel with the aphorism about the differences between the life of men and the life of women. She then proceeds with the following line:

'So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead'

  1. How does this establish the novel as a piece of traditional storytelling?
    1. It is important as it conveys the importance of traditions
    2. Helps us to question what happens to them, and it makes us read on and find out what has happened and why.
  2. How does this compare to how Atwood establishes the idea of storytelling in the Handmaids tale?
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Introduction of Eye Dialect

Introducing Eye Dialect:

  1. Why does Hurston introduce the eye dialect of her novel in this way?
    1. Deeper insight into her character and the community she is a part of
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The character 'Joe Starks'

Joe Starks:

  • He is cruel, conceited and uninterested in Janie as a person.
  • He depends on the exertion of power for his sense of himself; only happy when he feels he has power over people around him.
  • Janie says about his power and that he needs to "have (his) way all (his) life, trample and mash down and then die ruther than tuh let (him)self heah bout it"
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The character 'Logan Killicks'


  • First husband of Janie
  • "Vision of Logan killicks was desecrating the pear tree but Janie didn't know how to tell Nanny that" (page 18 and 19)
  • Nanny arranges Janie's marriage to Logan because she values financial security and respectability over love. 
  • Logan pampers Janie for a year before he tries to make her help him with the farming work. 
  • Feeling used and unloved, Janie leaves him for Jody starks 
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The character 'Nanny'

  • Memory she has is powerful, had a strong impact on people and life around her
  • "Every day after that they managed to meet in the scrub oaks across the road…."
  • Janie's grandmother
  • Nanny's experience as a slave stamped her worldview with a strong concern for financial security respectability, and upward mobility
  • These values clash with Janie's independence and desire to experience the world, though Janie comes to respect Nanny's values and decisions as well intended. 
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The character 'Janie'

  • The protagonist of the novel, Janie defies categorization : she is black bu flaunts her caucasian-like straight hair, which comes from her mixed ancestry; she is a woman but defies gender stereotypes insisting on her independence and wearing overalls. 
  • Behind her defiance are a curiosity and confidence that drive her to experience the world and become conscious of her relation to it. 
  • Part of Janie's maturity rests in her ability to realize that others' cruelty toward her or their inability to understand her stems not from malice but from their upbringing or limited perspective 
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Relationship between Janie and Nanny

Hurston portrays Janie's emotional development and increasing independence through each relationship that she has.

  • "She slapped the girl's face violently"

    • Anger

    • Wants Janie to appreciate what she is doing for her

    • Desperately sad for Janie

    • Shocking and uncomfortable

  • "Stood there suffering and loving and weeping internally for both of them"

  • Material security and wealth

  • Want's a better life for Janie, as she didn't have the freedom or have any relationship

  • Janie feels like it is going to ruin her if she marries Logan.

  • She doesn't want to tell Nanny about this because she loves her and doesn't want to ruin the bond between them.

  • Wants to get Janie secure, because she is in a very vulnerable position and Nanny wants to make sure she has a secure relationship as Nanny is getting old and may die soon.

  • Janie gets emotional, but Nanny understands why and this makes her want to empathise with her. Shows the connection between them and the maternal bond.

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Relationship between Janie and Logan

  • "Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks has said it, so it must be so. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage mean. It was just so" - Pg. 28

    • Janie is very naive

    • Needs to put her trust into Nanny, and that Nanny has found her a relationship that she will be secure and safe within

    • She does it for the sake of Nanny

    • She doesn't really want to have this relationship with Logan, but has to be hopeful as she has no other choice and she feels like she doesn't want to let Nanny down.

    • There is more to a relationship than love, but this relationship seems to be only based on love. Whereas we know that marriage is not only based on love, that it is all about trust etc.

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Relationship between Janie and Logan

"No'm, he ain't even talked 'bout hittin' me. He says he never mean to lay de weight uh his hand on me in malice. He chops all de wood he think Ah wants and den he totes it inside de kitchin for me. Keeps both water buckets full' (Page 30

  • Trying to convince herself that this is the right thing for her

  • He is portrayed in a very kind way

  • Logan is kinder than other men.

  • Love is not there, Logan is not the person that Janie wants to be with deep down.

"Ah wants to want him sometimes. Ah don't want him to do all de want him to do all de wantin'"

  • She feels like she has a right to want him and love him but she knows that she can't

  • She feels guilty that she doesn't love Logan

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Janie's relationship with Logan

Janie's relationship with Logan:

  • He has tried all he can to help Janie to feel love towards him

  • Shine is coming off the relationship.

  • Logan has expectations of what Janie should be doing

  • Logan wants Janie to work

  • A big physical distance

  • Relationship has turned into something for show

  • Logan has fears of Janie leaving him

  • No connection but fear of her going.

  • Logan doesn't want Janie to leave him.

  • Janie is a status symbol

    • Allows Men to elevate their status through having a relationship

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Metaphor of Trees

Metaphor in Chapters 2-4: Trees

  • Hurston returns frequently to the image of the pear tree and the stage it is at in its lifecycle. This pear tree is explicitly linked to Janie, her stage in maturity and sexuality, and her feelings at the moment.

    • "Oh to be a pear tree- any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! She was sixteen. She has glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her?"

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Comparison of Symbolism to HM

Compare and contrast the symbolism in Handmaids Tale:

  • In Handmaids Tale, Flowers are used a form of symbolism to represent fertility, women and fixed. One of the quotes that Atwood Portrays this symbolism through is "watercolour picture of blue irises" which shows how it is very faint, reproduction in all the commanders houses. Atwood refers to the flowers as "blue" representing the wives. Dangers and repression that society put onto Offred.

  • The pear tree represents where Janie is in her lifecycle and what stage she is in during life.

  • Janie has more freedom to develop as a person as she isn't repressed or in danger within the society and the society has a lot of respect for women, as they are a status symbol.

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Use of Metaphor for Nanny

Similarly to Janie, Nanny is also described using the image of a tree. This time, a simile:

  • "Nanny's head and face looked like the standing roots of some old tree that had been torn away by storm. Foundation of ancient power that no longer mattered"

    • Life has taken everything away from her

    • Decay, rot and death.

    • No longer has any power as she has passed it all over to Janie.

    • Continuance, of passing everything over to Janie, who will carry them forward.

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