“How To Read Literature Like A Professor” Outlines many motifs authors use to enhance the text, such as irony, allusion, setting, and so on. These Ideals for writing found in the novel “How To Read Literature Like A Professor” by Thomas Foster can be found in the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. This essay will focus on the quest, weather, symbolism, and religion, and how these elements are used to make “Their Eyes Were Watching God” a timeless story. Believe it or not, just about every plot follows the simple skeleton of a stereotypical quest.
This skeleton consists of five elements: :”(a) a quester, (b) a place to go, (c) a stated reason to go there, (d) challenges and trials en route, and (e) a real reason to go there” (Foster, 3). “Their Eyes Were Watching God” follows this sle;eton, albeit loosely. The “quester” in this story would be Janie, a black woman on a quest for happiness. The place she’s going? Well, she’s not quite sure where she wants to end up, but she knows she wants to end up happy, and to do that she needs a man (or, at least she thinks she does, due to her upbringing).
She faces trials in the form of a lack of love (in her first marriage), a lack of independence (in the form of her second marriage), and finally, a lack of feminimity (in her third and final marriage). In addition to these, she also faces violence, racism, and classism. Her real reason to go there? Well according to “How To Read Literature Like A Professor”, “The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge” (Foster, 3).
Janie’s self knowledge comes in the form of realizing she doesn’t need a husband, and that she can do anything she wants to without the help of a man, finally reaching independence, and, in turn, happiness. Weather does not really appear to have a significance until near the end of the novel. At this point, Janie and Tea Cake are caught in a torrential storm. They are forced to leave their home, and try to get away from the storm. They take a rest alongside a road, and Janie attempts to get a piece of roofing to cover them.
However, “Immediately the wind lifted both of them and she saw herself sailing off the fill to the right, out and out over the lashing water” (Hurston, 165). At this point she falls in the water, and Tea Cake saves her, albeit getting bit by a rabid dog in the process. However, it’s not just rain. According to Thomas Foster, “It’s never just rain” (Foster, 75). In this case, the water represents a baptism, a so-called “resurrection” for both Tea Cake and Janie. In this, they both get a new outlook. Jnaie realizes that she does need Tea Cake, that she could not survive if she was independent.
After this incident, Tea Cake gets more possessive of her as well. Symbolism is the largest element of the story that is also represented in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, and the most important symbol is hair. Hair is referenced frequently throughout the novel, and ties nearly all of themes present in the novel together. Janie’s long, beautiful hair is a centerpiece of the novel. Jody, her second husband, makes her tie it up, because, “She was in the store for him to look at, not those others. ” (Hurston, 55).
Janie’s hair is a weapon, a tool to be used against Jody, so he makes her keep it covered, so no one else can have her. It is symbolic of her lack of her free will. However, as it says in the “How To Read Literature Like A Professor”, a symbols meaning isn’t set in stone. (Foster, 98) Hair also represents the separate races of whites and blacks, and the separate classes that come with that. Mrs. Turner’s hair is close to her head, as that is how a stereotypical white woman’s hair is (however she is not white, she is allegedly pretending to be).
This shows that being a white women is preferred. This symbol is extended when Tea Cake has to bury victims of the flood. He inquires a guard about how he’s supposed to tell who gets a coffin (because white people are supposed to get one, but not blacks) when they all look black due to the flood. The guard replies, “Look at they hair. ” (Hurston, 171). In this instance, hair is a curse. It separates humanity. Due to this book taking place in the rural south of the 1900s, there is a large focus on religion.
God is referenced frequently throughout the novel, from Nanny praying that God finds Janie a rich man, to the storm, God manifests himself in this novel in many ways. During the storm, God is described as “The monstropolous beast. ” (Hurston, 161). This seems to paint God in a bad way, and it’s inferred they are fighting God by trying to run from the storm. In conclusion, many elements in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” line up with the elements found in “How To Read Literature Like A Professor”, It’s almost like the two were made to be companion pieces, as the elements in one pair well with the other.