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Jiwon HwangAP LiteratureExpanding Dreams and Horizon: Janie Crawford’s ProgressionAn acquirement of identity is often one’s most prized value. Gaining an autonomy over oneself is being independent without any constraints, or having the ability to overcome the surrounding constraints. There are often other values that people prize in their lives — health, love or wealth — but ultimately, one’s identity and dreams bestows one with the peak of self-fulfillment and accomplishment. In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, protagonist Janie Crawford’s curiosity and sexual desire are explored through her the three men’s presence: Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake, who have provided her with emotional and physical stimulation. Janie continuously seeks to expand her dreams and her identity; however challenged by her circumstances, and ultimately puts her search of identity and dreams over the experiences of love. Love is presented as a process by which Janie explores her own empowerment, but not her ultimate movie for her to reflect and transform. Hurston showcases the progression Janie makes throughout the novel in her journey of self-discovery and search for dreams with the symbolism of horizon, and exemplifies the idea that women can only define her horizon — find her dreams and identity — after experiencing love. The novel begins with a general statement of the differences between men and women in their attempts to search for their dreams. Men’s dreams are portrayed through the imagery of a ship, and the stagnant nature of their dreams cause them to “sail forever on the horizon.” (1) Their dreams are mocked, and even the Watcher turns away in resignation; in contrary, women’s dreams harbor a transient nature: “woman forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget” (1). Women’s ability, as claimed in this statement, allows them the power to act and behave according to their dreams, in contrast to men, whose dreams are “never out of sight” and stays where they have started. The stretch to which women’s ability can reach, thereby foreshadows the potential sense of liberation and the self-autonomy in Janie’s behavior. She would have the capacity to go beyond her horizon, through the transient nature of her dreams. Janie’s pursuit of dreams had been constantly constrained and challenged by her surroundings. Often, her circumstances served as a limiting factor- including love. She uses the horizon metaphor to portray how people around her view her dreams, or affect her pursuit of dreams. From young, Janie’s naivete is expressed through her exploration of her desires and dreams. Initially, an unprecedented side of the world Janie is clueless about is shown to her by Johnny Taylor, who sparks her awakening of her sexual curiosity and desires for love, reflected through the imagery of pear tree and the pollinating bees. However naive and unrealistic, Janie soon gets a grasp of what marriage, which she mistakenly perceives as ‘love’, is like: “So this was a marriage!” (11). Janie’s first-felt sense of independence and adulthood is soon constrained by her Nanny, who “belonged to that other (some people could look at a mud-puddle and see an ocean with ships) kind that loved to deal in scraps” (89). Horizon was given to every individual to explore his limits and possibilities, but Nanny wields Janie in a way that she does not favor, as Nanny ties “(the horizon) about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her.” (89) Janie is a figure of exploding curiosity and desires, though repressed by the name of love Nanny uses to defend her constraints on Janie as she attempts to persuade Janie to marry Logan Killicks. Janie describes Nanny as someone who is narrow-sighted that she does not let Janie have the independence she wants, in deciding what she wants to do, or who she wants to marry. Nanny’s definition of horizon is stemmed from her own experiences of slavery, that she could not ” fulfill her (my) dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat’s one of de hold-backs of slavery.” (16) Ultimately, Nanny’s horizon is that of a middle-class values and financial stability; she could not achieve this goal in her lifetime, therefore imposing it on Janie by making her marry a respected landowning farmer, and turning blind to Janie’s needs. The horizon reflects the extent to which one can actively seek for his dreams and possibilities. It is a realm for unrestrained self-exploration in which Janie can discover herself, however Nanny’s interpretation and that of Janie differs, which causes the collision of wants between them. Love, through portrayal of Nanny, represents collision of ideals that Janie experiences as she realizes what she wants and where she wants to go. As Janie experiences the reality of love she had fantasized about in her younger days, her willingness to indulge in the unfamiliar presence of autonomy and independence is again reflected through the progression of the symbolism of horizon. Through her interaction with Logan Killicks, she soon realizes that the “love embrace and ecstatic shiver” was not a realistic portrayal of love she had imagined. To her, Logan was reflective of a “desecrating (of) the pear tree,” (14) which exemplified a tainted image of love. Logan, like Nanny had previously, limited to the extent which Janie could speak and act independently, and imprinted an idea that “(she) ain’t got no particular place.” (31). The placelessness and incapability Logan’s patriarchal, and allegedly superior, manner has created a situation where Janie desires a sense of independence of her own. Her longing for her own dreams and power have overshadowed her previous naive idea of love, which serves as a prime motive in departing Logan for Joe Starks. Joe did not represent “sun-up and pollen and blooming trees” — her ideal envisionment of love — but “he spoke for far horizon.” (29) Janie saw the extent Joe could provide her the platform for expanding her abilities, something she has been deprived of in her encounter with Nanny and Logan Killicks. A definitive turning point in Janie’s perspective of Joe’s promise takes place during the village gathering where Joe makes a speech as a mayor. When Janie is encouraged to make a speech, Joe turns down the offer, reasoning that she is a woman, “and her place is in de home.” (43) To Janie’s dismay, Joe did not provide her the far horizon he had spoken of before their marriage, but limited her capabilities like Nanny and Logan did before him, using her gender as an excuse. Joe also takes up to be the authoritative, somewhat superior figure in the relationship, and suppresses Janie’s individual opinions or actions, describing her as “getting too moufy” (75). Janie’s development of independence piques only after Joe dies, in realizing that she had been “getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in the search of people,” when a source of restraint and repression is removed from her life. (89) Initially sparked by the name of love, Janie depends on Logan and Joe to show her the horizon, which ultimately failed. At this point of the novel, Janie reaches a stage in which she recognizes her ability to search for things she wanted independently. Her grasp of the ‘horizon’ fully takes place only after experiencing several encounters of love. Having sparked Janie’s awakening to her self-exploration, Tea Cake and Janie’s love is a strong propelling force in Janie’s growth. Janie initially attempts to distance Tea Cake, lest his intentions are disingenuous that it further taints the idea of love Janie has experienced through her previous marriages. Janie is troubled by the fact that Tea Cake could possibly using her company for money, as she waits in the kitchen for Tea Cake’s arrival as she “doubted me (him) ’bout de money.” (121) She is in no avail when Tea Cake proves otherwise and soon Janie is in love with Tea Cake in a higher intensity she had been with Logan or Joe. In fact, Tea Cake embodies the horizon Janie had been searching for. Wherever Tea Cake takes her, “everything was big and new… People wild too.” (129) His love for Janie had taken her to expand the limits to which she could travel, and brought her to experiencing new environment and people. Janie even claims that “Ah (she)done been tuh de horizon and back now,” (191) acknowledging Tea Cake’s role in her pursuit of the horizon. Indeed, through Tea Cake, Janie has encountered a new extent of her power, fuelling reflection and thoughts. Ironically however, her full grasp of self-identity and dreams are gained after Tea Cake dies. Her progress in independence is exhibited when Janie reflects on her relationship with Tea Cake after he dies. Janie is ultimately able to “pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder” (193), wielding her horizon by her will. Tea Cake has widened her vision, not only in terms of love, but in ways she view the world. Tea Cake’s death had been a major impetus in overcoming external pressures and gaining full autonomy of her thoughts and actions. Janie is no longer restrained by other values, love as Nanny had, or gender as Logan and Joe have.The prevalent symbolic presence of horizon reflects Janie Crawford’s extent to which she can pursue her dreams independently. The symbol of the horizon paves the way Janie takes to discover the value of independence and identity. Initially, love is presented both as a excuse for repression and a catalyst for self-exploration and transformation. Janie values the idea of love in a naive and realistic lens, and although it seems that Janie’s priority lies in achieving idealistic love, Janie’s self-cognizance overpowers in the definition of her horizon. Janie’s progression throughout the novel reflects every individual’s ability to attain independence on his own, regardless of the fact that it has been initiated by different values, such as love. By the end of the novel, Janie grows into an individual, not restrained by gender or love, fully independent and aware of her identity and dreams.

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