Illness In Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Foster develops the concept that an illness is never just an illness in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. This is evident in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God through the symbolism of the illnesses that impact Janie’s life. Foster explains that a prime literary disease “should have strong symbolic or metaphorical possibilities” (Foster 224). Hurston utilizes this concept in her novel, the characters developing illnesses that represent Janie’s freedom and independence. Janie, bound to her husband, Jody, and obliged to do as he asked, looked for a way to freedom, but only felt more trapped. Her path to freedom finally appeared when Jody began to have kidney failure. On his deathbed, Janie was finally able to stand up to him, commenting that “ all dis bowin’ down, all dis obedience under yo’ voice- dat ain’t whut Ah rushed off…show more content…
The concept that illnesses have strong symbolic or metaphorical possibilities is further explored in the mad dog disease that infects Tea Cake. Overcome with jealousy and insanity due to the disease, Tea cake attempts to kill Janie. At the climax of the scene, “The pistol and the rifle rang out almost together. The pistol just enough after the rifle to seem its echo. Tea Cake crumpled as his bullet buried itself in the joist over Janie’s head” (Hurston 184). The mad dog disease is, again, a symbol of Janie’s freedom and independence as it gave Janie the freedom to decide to shoot the gun to save herself and end Tea Cake’s suffering, or to do nothing and get shot herself. The decision to shoot the gun kills Tea Cake and leaves Janie without a husband, however, it gives Janie the independence she had always desired in the process. Due to the fact that illnesses are symbolic of freedom in Their Eyes are Watching God, the novel is evidence for Foster’s concept that an illness is never just an illness in How to Read Literature like a
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