Like most people, the first time I encountered Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God was in my AP Literature class. It was a required summer reading and weirdly, I enjoyed every minute of it. I recall my teacher discussing it on the first day. She read the passage on the pear tree and the bee and asked what it meant. No one raised their hand. It seemed that though we knew what the pear tree and the bee symbolized, we were too embarrassed to say it. I raised my hand and tentatively answered that I think it symbolized Janie’s first sexual experience. The teacher replied that I was almost correct and went on to further explain.
Apart from the moment when Janie and Tea Cake first meet, the pear tree passage is my favorite part of the book. Indeed, Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my favorite novels. I love it for its imagery and poetic language. I love it because it’s like a play at times, what with the exaggerated personas that certain villagers take on when they congregate at Joe Starks’ shop, the stage, and the fact that they are sometimes represented as a chorus, their voices, feelings, and thoughts represented as one for all of them.
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