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Janies Hair/Head

Rags

Meaning of
Symbol

Evolution/Recurren
ce of Symbol

Throughout the
novel, Janies hair
serves as a
symbol of her
strength and
nonconformity. At
the beginning of
the novel, a group
of gossiping
women say that
Janie is improper
for wearing her
hair down,
showing how
Janies character
refuses to
conform to
societys
standards. Later
on, however, her
second husband
forces her to wear
a head-rag in
order to hide her
from other men.
This symbolizes
her husbands
suffocating and
jealous presence,
and Janies loss of
power.

Janie ties her hair


into a braid, and
this is frequently
referenced in
rather indelicate
terms. As such, it
establishes a
symbol of
masculine power
that threatens
gender norms.
Later on, Mrs.
Turner praises
Janie for the
straightness of her
hair, which is
considered to be a
white trait.
Similar to the
braid, this
straightness
serves as a
symbol of Janies
power, breaking
down the
traditional
methods of
thinking. Janie
refuses to
conform, and
begins to exhibit
signs of
unconventional
behavior for her
demographic.

Rank and
Justification
(1 = Highest, 5 =
Lowest)
4. The symbol of
Janies hair and
head-rags is in fact
creative and
powerful, but not
as profound as the
others. Though it
does symbolize
Janies strength
and nonconformity,
it does not mark
life-changing
events or
philosophies. Truly,
it serves as a
physical display of
the power-shifts in
her relationships,
but it does not
cause her spirit to
falter. Even when
her hair is covered
up, she finds the
will to carry on. It is
a creative symbol,
but it simply can
not stand against
the sheer
magnitude of the
other symbols.

The Pear Tree

Early on in the
novel Janie
watches a bee
pollinate a pear
tree, and this
small occurrence
has a profound
impact on her
worldview. This
moment
symbolizes sexual
desire and love.
Janie spends the
rest of the novel
seeking the union
symbolized within
the trees
pollination.

The symbolism of
the pear tree is
presented
throughout Janies
encounters with
men. Her idealistic
concept of love
and marriage that
stems from the
tree is ruined by
her first two
marriages
particularly her
second to Jody
but is later
reignited by her
third husband Tea
Cake.

1. Out of these five


symbols, the pear
tree is perhaps the
most effective and
creatively
delivered. Janies
sexual awakening
is told in a very
unique manner
beneath the pear
tree, and this event
impacts the rest of
the story. Because
of this moment,
Janie seeks love
and commitment
and would spend
the rest of the
story searching. No
other symbol has
such a lasting
effect, or is
delivered in such a
tangible way.

The Sun/Horizon

The Hurricane

The horizon is
frequently
mentioned
throughout the
story, and comes
to symbolize the
mystery of nature
and new
beginnings. The
suns position is
noted several
times in Janies
recollections,
serving as a
reminder that no
matter what
happens, life goes
on. At times, the
horizon also
symbolizes Janies
potential
happiness that is
just out of reach.

Contrary to the
pear tree and the
horizon, the
hurricane
represents
natures
destructive and
cruel behavior. As
the hurricane
sweeps over
them, the
characters
question their
worldviews. Are

Janies arranged
marriage with
Logan Killicks is
interrupted by her
dreams of a better
life with Jody. She
notes how he
shows her the
horizon, or what
her life could be
like. Later on, she
discovers that Tea
Cake is the one
who can show her
the horizon, and
she is able to find
love and
happiness with
him. Despite her
poor experiences
with Logan and
Jody, the horizon
still lingered in the
distance. And in
the end of the
novel, Janie
remarks how Tea
Cakes memory
will always give
her access to
happiness.

2. The horizon
comes in second
because of its wide
representation of
important factors in
the novel. Janies
fascination with
nature is very
apparent in the
novel, and the
horizon is no
exception. It
symbolizes her
wonder, as well as
her determination
to continue despite
the rough patches
in her life.
Additionally, it
marks Janies goal
of finding
happiness in a
relationship that
she eventually
discovers within
Tea Cake. At the
end, the symbol
even has a
resolution that
Janie unveils
through Tea Cakes
memory.
While the symbol
3. The hurricane
of the hurricane
should rightfully
does not recur (it
rank highly
appears at the end because of its
of the novel), it
profound impact on
does conflict with
the storys
earlier symbols. It
characters. This
not only serves as symbol is powerful
a representation of enough to cause
natures
the characters to
destruction, but
question their
the potential
identity and what
destruction of the
they believe. It also
characters beliefs. confronts other

The Mule

they in conflict
with nature itself?
Does God truly
exist? Is life
simply left to
chance? The
hurricane
presents the
characters with
endless
questions, and
symbolizes the
unpredictable,
impersonal
methods of
nature.
Imagery of the
mule occurs a few
times throughout
the novel,
symbolizing
oppression and in
essence, slavery.
This imagery
tends to draw
parallels to
female characters
that are stifled by
their male
counterparts.
Whether it be
servitude or
emotional
subjugation, the
mule serves as a
symbol for
victimization and
suppression.

symbols within the


novel, which is a
creative twist of
allusions. This
symbol acts as the
opposite of the
horizon, and
attempts to destroy
Janies idealistic
view of nature.
Anything as serious
as that deserves a
solid rank.

The first reference


to the mule occurs
when Nanny tells
Janie that women
especially black
womenare the
mules of the
earth. In other
words, they are
lesser than other
demographics,
constantly being
victimized. Later
on it reappears
when Logan
Killicks attempts
to purchase a
mule for Janie to
use while working
the plow. This
evolves the
symbolism and
causes Janie to
feel like an animal
herself. The mule
makes a final
appearance when
the town mocks
Matt Bonners
mule, symbolizing

5. The use of the


mule as symbolism
is unique, but does
not seem prevalent
enough to earn a
higher ranking. The
references are
small, yet
powerfully
delivered, and
comment on the
subjugation of
women during that
time. Regardless, it
seems like this
symbol takes the
back-burner to the
others (perhaps
Hurstons method
of sneaking in a
feminist message
while avoiding any
potential backlash
for that period).
Janies struggle for
love, symbolized
within the pear tree
and the horizon,
seem to be the
central symbols in

societys cruel
treatment of
women.

the story.