"It had called
her to come and gaze on a mystery"
Many a person would
gaze upon a pear tree for its beauty, or perhaps sit under it for its
shade. To view it as a "mystery," as Janie does suggests a deeper
delving into the meaning of a pear tree, on how it does what it does
and why it does so. This is seen in her following questions that
foreshadow the upcoming delving into the meaning of Janie.
describing the tree as such, Janie is truly describing herself.
The barren brown stems allude to her dark arms and legs, the leaf-buds
to her budding breasts. Two paragraphs later, in fact, sixteen
year old Janie is depicted in terms of her "glossy leaves and bursting
buds" (11). In observing nature and its development, Janie is
observing her own physical, especially sexual development and
consciousness, as seen by the final words of the sentence being "from
the leaf buds to snowy virginity of bloom" (emphasis
mine.) She is a virgin to the changes to her body and what they
imply, both physically and mentally.
asking of the tree, what it is, how it can be, and why it is so, Janie
is questioning the essence of nature while simultaneously searching for
metaphysical answers to these same questions in reference to
are the questions that every human being, upon emerging to
consciousness, must ask. What am I, what is my essence?
Where do I fit
into the scheme of creation? How I am so today, and how am I to
become who I am to be? Why was I created, why I am here?
is a song that has nothing to do with (her) ears" because it is not her
ears or any aspect of her sensual being that is doing the asking.
Although the senses are stimulated to engage Janie in her quest,
specifically the sense of smell, which has been linked to the strongest
of human memories,
these remembered questions are truly matters of the mind; perhaps it is
even her soul that is doing the searching. It is fitting
these questions are described as recollections from another existence
they are questions that beg the asking from each existence. These
existential questions are shared by all thinking beings, in a sense
recalled throughout nature from generation to generation.
voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into
"...summoned to behold a revelation."
employed here repeatedly reverberates words traditionally used in
religious contexts. In so far as that God is not a physical
voice that would beckon from this source would be inaudbile.
Nature itself can be defined as that voice without sound, the
of God. Janie is in touch with the dawn of her spiritual quest,
as previously mentioned in terms of her metaphysical questioning.
The word "sanctum," too, alludes to a sanctuary typically associated
worship. This worship may be towards the creator or merely
the creations themselves, in that the sanctity and beauty of a
pear tree and blossoming young woman are presented. Like the
prophets, Janie perceives herself to have beheld a revelation. In
this way, this passage introduces a religious, or at least biblical
interpretation of the entire chapter as a mirroring of the story of
and Eve in the utopian Garden of Eden, specifically one of Eve by the
For a continued
look at this approach, as well as an interpreation in terms of the
mythological Odyssey of Homer, please see the prized writing of
Daniel Wenger @ http://prizedwriting.ucdavis.edu/past/1991-1992/wenger.html.
to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the trees from root
tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight."
& "...a pain remorseless sweet that left
limp and languid."
This clearly orgasmic
language marks the birth of Janie's sexuality, and more specifically
the awakening of her sexual consciousness to the point of epiphany.
calyx, with its first syllable rhyming with that of phallic, is perhaps
meant to draw the inference of a " sexually undifferentiated tissue in
an embryo that becomes the
penis or clitoris," as defined @ http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=phallus,
in that until now, Janie has been "sexually undifferentiated," but is
on the brink of "becoming." Janie observes "t
of a flower (that) are collectively called the calyx and act as a
protective covering of the inner flower parts in the bud," as explained
@ http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/s1/sepal.asp. She perceives their
"arching to meet the love embrace," opening to expose the inner parts
of the flower bud. She too, is beginning to shed her protective
petals in seeking the "love embrace" of another. Just as a female arches upon
arousal "to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver" that is sure to come, Janie is up and
ready to feel the meaning and actualization of her awakening. In
observing the each and every part of the tree "creaming" and "frothing"
the language makes it sound as though Janie is empathizing.
Whether she is
actually experiencing this beautiful depiction of a female orgasm or
merely recognizing her potentiality to experience what she sees nature
experiencing, Janie's sexuality is born.
answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an answer
seeking her, but where? When? How?…"
Janie is awaiting
answers to her existential, as well as physical questions and
yearnings. She returns to her style of seemingly incessant
questioning, with quick, one word sentences transporting the reader
into the moment in her mind. The questions keep popping up in her
head. Each one with the hopes of bringing her closer to what she
is looking for, foreshadows the addressing of the various issues Janie
has brought up in this passage and throughout the chapter.
" Oh to be a
desire to be a pear tree here serves as the greatest evidence that
Hurston is employing the symbolism of the pear tree as a sort of
anthropomorphism. Rather than serving to describe the tree, the
human characteristics granted to it bespeak the essence of Janie's
singing of the beginning of the world..."
The final words of
this passage serve as a direct lead-in for what is to come in the story
presented. Directly following the characterization of bees as
kissing, "through pollinated air" (12), her mind having been pollinated
by those very singing bees just as the air surrounding the blossoms has
been, Janie receives a kiss of her own.