In the story, Their Eyes were watching God was the story of Janie and her tremendous journey to find her true self. There were many things that influenced her to mature throughout the book. One of these influences was nature. Nature played an important role in shaping Janie’s character; from the pear tree, where she first realized her sexuality to the devastating hurricane that swept the town. These features in nature helped her mature and realize what she needed as growing woman throughout the story. The pear tree was a symbol in nature that shaped Janie’s character. The pear tree is a symbol of Jane’s blossoming love. It was first mentioned, in the spring when Janie was sixteen years old. “She saw a dust bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes each to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage!” (Hurston 10-11) Janie’s her idea of love, life, and happiness revolves around the basic idea of the pear tree working in perfect harmony with nature. She cries, “Oh to be a pear tree–any tree in bloom!” (Hurston 11) In saying this Janie displays how desperately she wants the love and affection from a man that the tree receives from the bee with pollen.
Janie connected the pear tree to each of her marriages. She had a horrible first marriage she described her husband by saying, “Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree.” Logan made her realize that women should be treated with dignity and respect. (Hurston 13) In her second marriage with Jody, Janie is restricted and she Jody gets jealous when she’s around other men. This made her realize that a man should have faith in his wife and give her freedom to experience life. “Janie pulled back a long time because Jody did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees.” (Hurston 28) Her dream of the pear tree did not come until her third marriage with Tea Cake. By this time Janie is forty years old and has experienced a life. Janie described him as looking like the love thoughts of women. “He could be a bee to a blossom–a pear tree blossom in the spring” (Hurston 101). Tea Cake is everything Janie wants in a man: he appreciates Janie’s beauty, intelligence, and independence, but he also shows her compassion, trust, and respect.
Another important symbol in nature was the old mule. The mule was a symbol of the control that men have over things. Janie expresses empathy for the animal and this is often seen as Janie’s “own sense of gender entrapment” (DuPlessis 112).Early in the novel, Janie’s grandmother explained, “De nigger woman is de mule of de world so far as Ah can see” (Hurston 14). Janie wanted to escape her grandmother’s words and realize her true power as a woman. She wanted to belong to no one but herself. But women were continuously shown as “mules” throughout the book. An example was when Janie ran off with Jody after getting tired of Logan to live in Eatonville. Janie told Jody that Logan was buying her a mule and he said, “A pretty doll-baby lak you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo’self and eat p’taters dat other folks plant special just for you” (Hurston 29) This quote demonstrates that Jody felt that Janie shouldn’t be working because she is a woman.
The last symbol is nature that had an effect on Janie was the hurricane. The hurricane represents the destructive fury of nature. As such, it functions as the opposite of the pear tree imagery: whereas the pear tree and horizon stand for beauty and pleasure, the hurricane demonstrates how chaotic and unstable the world can be. The storm makes Janie realize that nature is far more powerful than any man. “They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God” (Hurston 151). Showing that no one knew what would happen next; All they could do is watch for God’s next move. When the winds knock out the power, the others wonder if “He meant to measure their puny might against His.” This was said in recognition of God’s power and the people understand with whom true power lies, not in men but in God.