The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness seems to come in a number of ways and number of people. It’s something money can’t buy and is priceless, and it’s something we should all fight for. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, a Harlem Renaissance classic written by Zora Neal Hurston that follows a girl named Janie Crawford and her neverending search for love and happiness, leaves the reader with one main message. People should always leave the stuff that hurts them to find true happiness no matter what anybody says, and she shows this message multiple times throughout the book.

Even though society tells us otherwise, when the setting changed from Eatonville, a rich African American town where Janie was mayor, to the Everglades, a very rural and poor area where she was poverty stucken, Janie finally finds happiness. When Janie is in Eatonville, she is very miserable.”She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels.

Sometimes she stuck it out into the future, imagining her life different from what it was”(76).The town of Eatonville in the book provides you with the idea of Janie being trapped or imprisoned, and she seems very depressed and broken. This provides you with the message that Janie is being hurt and is not enjoying her life. After her husband dies, she decides to move to a new place with a new man. They decide to move away to the Everglades, where she is happy as ever.

After being in the Everglades for a little bit she reflects on her hometown, “Sometimes Janie would think of the old days in the big white house and the store and laugh to herself…She was sorry for her friends back there and scornful for the others…Only here,she could listen and laugh and even talk some herself if she wanted to”(134). Janie finally finds happiness and freedom after leaving Eatonville and arriving at the Everglades. This change of setting shows that when people leave a place that is toxic, they can finally find their own personal heaven. Zora Neal Hurtson shows us that folks don’t need to live in a big house to be happy, and when they decide to leave a place that is dragging them down, they’ll be more cheerful than ever.

The character Janie Crawford helps support the message of the book when she decides to move on from Jody Starks and run away with a man named Tea Cake, a young and attractive man. When Janie is living with Jody, she starts to realise that their marriage isn’t what she wanted it to be, “Over, Janie? I god, Ah ain’t even started good. Ah told you in the very first beginnin’ dat Ah aimed tuh be uh big voice. You oughta be glad, ‘cause that makes uh big woman outa you.

A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far away from things and lonely”(46). When she was with Jody, she was being used as some sort of trophy wife and they were not the soul mates as Janie had wanted. This gives the idea that Janie is not happy and is hating her life. But, when Janie moves on from Jody after he passes away and meets a man named Tea Cake, She is happier then she has ever been. When she was in bed with Tea Cake “He drifted off to sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love.

So her soul crawled out from its hiding place”(128). When she was with Tea Cake, she was finally happy and she felt she could be herself after moving on from Jody. This shows us that when people move from people that hurt them, they can finally find the happiness they spent their entire life searching for. Using the character of Janie, Hurston shows us how to live a better and brighter life.

Zora Neal Hurston uses the symbol of a hair rap to get her message to the reader. When Janie is wearing the hair wrap, she is not living the life she had hoped for. When she takes it off she feels liberated and free. When she is married to Jody, he makes her wear a hair wrap,”Her hair was NOT going to show in the store, It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store…She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others. But he never said things like that. It just wasn’t in him”(). When she had to keep her hair up, she felt trapped and couldn’t be herself.

This shows the reader that Janie is not happy because she can’t be who she is. When Jody dies, she feels free and decides to get rid of the hair wraps she had to wear.”Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging well below her waist… She would have the rest of her life to do as she pleased”(89). Janie now feels liberated and can do whatever she wants to do with her life now. This supports Hurston’s message because after removing her “shackles”, she was happier and better off than before. People can show ideas in a number of ways, just as Hurston used the symbol of a hair wrap to express her message in this book.