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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Memory and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. (1.1-2)

Women reconstructing their past through selectively forgetting and remembering different aspects of their lives. In this way, women ensure that they see themselves as living out their dreams. It is interesting that Hurston starts off her novel by calling into question a woman’s ability to accurately look at her past because Their Eyes Were Watching God is largely one woman telling her life story. Does this imply that we aren’t supposed to trust Janie’s version of her past?

Quote #2

Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches. (2.1)

When beginning her story, Janie’s memories are shaped like a tree. This is appropriate because Janie’s whole life has been in pursuit of her experience underneath her pear tree – an experience of love and life that she constantly seeks to replicate. Janie’s tree of her memories and past, however is quite different that the pear tree that symbolized what she hoped her life would be. The tree of her memories doesn’t contain blossoms, but both suffering and joy. Looking back on her life, she sees that her dreams were more idealistic compared to what her life turned out to be.

Quote #3

Old Nanny sat there rocking Janie like an infant and thinking back and back. Mind-pictures brought feelings, and feelings dragged out dramas from the hollows of her heart. (2.57)

Memories are presented as a chain of events that reach into the deepest part of the human soul. First, memories are mere "mind-pictures" that then trigger emotions that finally blossom into full-fledged stories that are "dragged out" from the deepest recesses of the heart. Memories are, in themselves, fragments of a narrative.

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