Repression of Nanny’s Death in Their Eyes Were Watching God

L.R.G.

Why did Zora Neale Hurston choose to move away from the subject of Nanny’s death so quickly in Their Eyes Were Watching God? For one, she did it to refrain from revealing any weaknesses in Janie’s character. The book as a whole seems to empower women, especially Janie, the main character. Portraying Janie in mourning, weeping, or being depressed over her grandmother’s death would surely not embody this powerful, independent version of a woman. Instead, it would show that she is weak and emotional in troubled times and this would make her the stereotypical woman. Hurston was not trying to portray a stereotypical woman in her novel. Instead she was trying to show that women could be just as strong and able as men. Hurston’s hasty treatment of Nanny’s death leaves the reader with a feeling of disdain towards Janie. Didn’t Janie love her grandmother? Why didn’t she mourn her death? This is a situation that arises from misinterpreting Hurston’s intentions.

Hurston was not trying to make Janie out to be cold-hearted, even if that is the feeling we get from reading. I think instead what she’s really trying to do is deny the accusation that women are always overly emotional. I also think Hurston went too far in this novel by failing to allow Janie to grieve the death of the only family she knew. I understand what she was trying to do, but I think it could have been done just as effectively without making Janie out to be uncaring.

Instead of avoiding the situation altogether, she should have portrayed Janie paying respect to her grandmother’s life, dealing with the loss gracefully, and moving on. Simply ignoring the situation seems to cause a discrepancy in most people’s perception of how a death in the family is handled. Hurston could have laid out a scene of Janie praying at her grandmother’s grave or giving a speech at her funeral about how great of a person she was. She could have, in some way, portrayed that Janie was at peace with the fact that her grandmother had passed away because she was confident that she was in heaven. None of these situations would have taken away from the fact that Janie was a strong, independent woman. Personally, I think they would have enforced it.