Their Eyes Were Watching God How far can you see? Way, way off in the distance? But there is one sight always at the end of your vision: the horizon. Doesnt matter how far North, South, East, or West you go you are never going to get past the horizon. In the book Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, a lady named Janie searches for self and her place in the world. Throughout the book the concept of the horizon comes up, both figuratively and metaphorically. The horizon represents the ultimate goal, never to be reached, it contains everything we ever wanted, only some of which we can receive.
The horizon symbolizes what people want and the ships on it symbolize our individual hopes and dreams. Hurston opens her book with the following paragraphs: Ships at a distance have every mans wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sale forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they dont want to remember, and remember everything they dont want to forget.
The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. (p.1) Here is the first instance of the horizon in the text. Although the narrator is unclear at this point there is still a definite voice talking. This voice seems to be the ultimate voice of reason and only pops up periodically in the story.
The message is a little easier to discern. The ships represent hopes and dreams in the story, where the horizon is the ultimate goal, never to be reached. “That is the life of men.” Men concentrate solely on the dreams themselves, never satisfied until they have accomplished whatever it is the goal which they have set out to reach. Women, however, know that it is not where you end up, but what you gain from the journey, that counts. The women can live without the fulfillment of their dreams as long as they gained something trying to get there.
Another quote comes when Janie has just come to grips with the fact that marriage doesnt cause people to fall in love. Our “narrator” states, “Janies first dream was dead, so she became a woman.” (p.24) This quote goes along with the previous one. Janie became a woman, a person willing to except the loss of a dream and move on, knowing that something was gained in the process. The “horizon” claimed one of Janies dreams, she would never be able to reach it. The horizon represents dreams, goals and hopes, but how does one reach it? Janie decides that the only way for her to reach her goals is to go out and experience life. Janie talks to Pheoby about her ideas for her future.
Janie states, “Dis aint no business proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandmas way, now Ah means tuh live mine.” Janies grandmother represents the voice of society, wanting her to be prim and proper. Janie reels from societys ideas and instead decides to go on her own instincts. Janie realizes that in order for her to reach her dreams she has to live life in her own way.
At the very end of the story, Janie looks back at her life and is content. Janie states, “Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.” Janie tells us that she has reached her horizon, she was there and back and can tell us the tale.
“She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net.” Janie has reached her goals in life and can carry them around in her mind. Janie gives us a message of hope, that we can achieve our goals if we so desire. So the horizon is there, at the end of sight, taunting us. Waving what we want in front of our faces and sticking its tongue out in a grin. But this is only half the story.
Hurston shows us with her story that we can achieve our goals. The horizon is there to be reached, not to be forbidden. The horizon becomes an uplifting message, you can get there someday.