The Use Of Clothing In The Novel


The Use Of Clothing In The Novel ‘Their Eyes Were Watching Go Essay, Research Paper

Uses of Clothing in the Novel Their Eyes Were Watching God


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


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 in

blue, so Ah wears it. Jody ain’t never in his life picked out no

color for me. De worl’ picked out black and white for mournin’,

Joe didn’t. So Ah wasn’t wearin it for him. Ah was wearin it fo’

the rest of y’all.”" (pg. 107-108) In this passage, Janie

clearly moves on from Jody by shedding the husk of mourning

black and emerging wearing a blue dress and in love. Tea Cake

represents the first man who truly appreciates Janie for who she

is, and enjoys her for herself. Every other Significant Other in

her life previously has tried to shape her into a mold; Logan

into the role of the housewife or mule, and Jody as an

accessory, much like an ottoman. With Tea Cake, Janie

experiences true love and self expression, both of which are

symbolized by the blue dress.

Eventually, Janie and Tea Cake get married and move away, down

“on the muck” in the “‘glades.” There, Janie and Tea Cake have a

house which is a “magnet, the unauthorized center of the “job.”"

There, many gather to have fun and gamble. “Sometimes Janie

would think of the old days in the store and the big white house

and laugh to herself. What if Eatonville could see her now in

her blue denim overalls and heavy shoes?” (pg. 127) This passage

is a slice of Janie’s new life on the muck, but is catalogs her

change of clothes again into blue denim overalls and heavy

shoes. This type of clothing was practical for working on the

muck, so she wore them. At this time she began to work with Tea

Cake in the fields because Tea Cake couldn’t bear to spend a

whole day without her. Janie goes along willingly because “It’s

mo’ nicer than sittin round these quarters all day. Clerkin in

dat store was hard, but heah, we ain’t got nothin to do but work

and come home and love.” (pg. 127) This passage is almost a

summary of their time on the muck, for it was full of love and

hard work. This whole time can be summarized by the blue denim

overalls and heavy shoes, for they represented Janie’s

relationship with Tea Cake and showed that she had found true

love and it was blind.

All of Janie’s clothes represent her search for true love and

her relationships with those around her. When you look around,

that is true most of the time in the real world, too. We all

wear our clothes a silent messengers, and Hurston used this tool

clearly and well in her novel.

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