Annotated Passage
Theme of Self-Discovery

Zora Cigarette  


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Annotated Passage

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Last Updated: 7/23/03

Selected Passage from Chapter 9:

Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging well below her waist.  That was the only change people saw in her.  She kept the store in the same way except of evenings she sat on the porch and listened and sent Hezekiah in to wait on late custom.  She saw no reason to rush at changing things around. She would have the rest of her life to do as she pleased.

She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her.

Some people could look at a mud puddle and see an ocean with ships.  But Nanny belonged to that other kind that loved to deal in scraps.  Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon – for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you – and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God, 89

Annotations of selected passage:

"Before she slept that night..."

Here we have an image of Janie burning her head rags.  Her action here symbolizes her retaliation against the repression that Joe imposed upon her life. She is in fact rejecting Joe's dreams and revealing her own by the destoying Joe's attempt to camouflage her youth and beauty.  In doing this, she is actually establishing her own desire to be free.  Freedom of her hair equals freedom of her body and soul.

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"She kept the store in the same way..."

In keeping the store in the same way, we see that Janie will come to self-awareness in her own time.  Although she longs to live life to the fullest, she is patient.  She is woman of strength and she shows us this by changing her life in the time and manner that she desires, rather than submitting to the requests of her community. The people in her community would like to see her remarry right away, but she rebels against their wishes.  Janie comes to define her identity as she establishes control her life.
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"She would have the rest of her life..."

Janie decides that she can make changes slowly as she sees fit, because she has plenty of life left to live as she pleased.  Now that Joe is out of the picture, Janie sees a bright future ahead of her.  Janie discovers underneath the cover of the head rag that she is full of youth, vitality, and beauty. She is ready to express all of these attributes to the world, but she is patient because she knows that there is ample time to do so.   She yearns to share her energetic identity with the world, and discovers that she can do so in her own time.
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"She had been getting ready for her great journey..."

In preparing for her journey to the horizons, Janie is really preparing for a new life.  Janie longs to live a life of her own, with her own dreams and desires.  She realizes that her longings were always there, but they had been contained by well wishers like Joe and her Nanny.  She would no longer submit to their demands on how she should live, but rather she is moving toward her own goals.  Janie reaches closer to self-discovery as she pursues this new life.
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" was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her"

In saying that it is important to find the world Janie is really saying that she cannot live fully without having experiences.  Nanny had choked her dreams and aspirations out of her by making her marry a man she did not love, because Nanny wanted her to be secure.  Janie realizes now that she needs to discover for herself what life is like, without any sort of protection.  She wants to see what the world has to offer and understands that her journey to the horizons will give her that opportunity.  Janie can only define who she is by reaching to the horizons.
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"Some people could look at a mud puddle and see an ocean with ships.  But Nanny belonged to the other kind..."

Nanny belongs to the type of people who deal in scraps; whereas Janie can see amazing ships in mud-puddles.  These oppositions are set up for a distinct reason:  Hurston wants us to be convinced that Janie's epiphany is the only right answer in determining a meaning for her life.

[Thoughts taken from]
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