Their Eyes Were Watching God: The Use of Clothing

by Zora Neale Hurston

In the novel Their Eyes were watching God Zora Neale Hurston portrays a woman
named Janie\'s search for love and freedom. Janie, throughout the novel, bounces
through three different marriages, with a brief stint at being a widow in
between. Throughout these episodes, Hurston uses Janie\'s clothing as a visual
bookmark of where Janie is in her search for true love and how she is being
influenced by those around her.

Janie\'s first article of clothing is an apron that she wears while married to
Logan Killiks as a hard working sixteen year old. Logan, who Janie describes as
looking like "an \'ol skullhead in de grave yard," (pg. 13) marries Janie to
fulfill the role laid down by Janie\'s grandmother, a mule. Janie goes along with
this for nearly a year, until change comes walking down the road in the form of
Joe Starks. Joe is a "citified, stylish man with a hat set at an angle that
didn\'t belong in those parts," and he wants to take Janie away. Joe\'s dream is
to become "big man" and pleads Janie to take part in his dreams of the future.
He proposes marriage to her, and arranges a rendezvous at the bottom of the road
at sunup the next morning. Janie is torn because Jody "does not represent sun-up
pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke of the far horizon....The memory of
Nanny was still strong." (pg. 28) When Janie decides to leave the next morning
for, if nothing else, a healthy change, she looks down and sees the apron which
has stood for all the things she has had to do for Logan," and flung it on a
small bush beside the road. Then she walked on, picking flowers and making a
bouquet." (pg. 31) When Janie threw the apron on the bush, it represented a
major change in Janie\'s life, and a progression from Logan. Janie is continuing
her search for true love, although she knows already that Jody is not the
perfect fulfillment of her dream, and how she has been affected by Jody already.

Life with Jody was a disappointment from the beginning of their marriage. As
soon as they arrived in the sleepy burg of Eatonville, Jody was trying to gain
power and clout in the town, and had a clear image of where he wanted Janie in
that equasion. Jodie built the town\'s first store, and soon had Janie working in
"exalted" position of shopkeeper. After one incident where one of the store
regulars was witnessed by Jody feeling Janie\'s luxurious hair without her
knowledge, Jody, overcome by jealousy, forced her to wear her glorious tresses
in a head rag, like those worn by old women with hair that really needed to be
kept in a head rag. This head rag came to typify their whole marriage, with
Jody\'s selfish appearance loving demands taking precedence over Janie\'s needs
and dreams. Obviously Janie had not found true love with Jody either, for soon
their marriage broke down into a silent stalemate. After dying a broken man,
Janie faced life as a young and well off widow. The head rag through the "Jody"
period of her life clearly showed her position is her search for love and how
she was influenced by those around.

After Jody died, Janie began to be the object of the "aims" of other men, mainly
because of her dollar value. Janie dismisses most of these claims, but
eventually a man named Tea Cake came along, and brought another phase of her
life into swing. "She couldn\'t make him look like just another man to her. He
looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee in blossom--a pear
tree in blossom in the spring. he seemed to be crushing the scent out of the
world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. he
was a glance from God." (pg. 102) When the author uses words like these to
describe the thoughts of Janie towards Tea Cake, the conclusion can be safely
made that Janie was well down the path to love with tea Cake. And travel that
path she does. It is now that Janie changes her attire from the garments of
widowhood to something a little brighter. ""Folks seen you out in colors and dey
thinks you ain\'t payin\' de right amount of respect tuh yo\' dead husband." "Ah
ain\'t greivin so why do I hafta mourn? Tea Cake Love me