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Tiffany N Burns
Dr. Cherry Harmond-Early
ORM 401: Humanities: A Holistic Approach
June 17, 2014

Their Eyes Were Watching God Movie & Book Comparison/Contrast
Zora Neale Hurstons Their Eyes Were Watching God depicts an enthralling story of a young
woman, Janie Crawford, who is on a quest for true love and true self. The novel and Zora Neale
Hurston were not well known until 1975, when another African American writer, Alice Walker,
wrote an article entitled In Search of Zora Neal Hurston (Schmoop 1 ). This piece sparked
mainstream interests in Zoras writings. Oprah herself called it one of the most beautiful,
poignant love stories she had ever read. While Oprah was able to encapsulate the essence
Janies search for love, self-actualization, and independence, the movie misses pivotal key points
in Janies psychoemotional, social and spiritual development.
The first indication of Janies psychological development can be pinpointed in the book through
her flashback of her as a young girl. She has no recollection of her mother or father. She also has
no idea that she is black until she sees a photograph of herself along with the white children of
the Washburn family (Hurston 9). The movie completely misses this part. The viewer can only
assume that Janie may or may not be mixed as evident through her long hair and fair skin. If the
viewers were able to see that moment of her background, they may have understood Janie
psychological characteristics. Flashing forward to a sixteen-year-old Janie, who is now under the
proprietorship of her grandmother, Nanny. She is innocent and powerless in many ways

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and remains mostly passive throughout the book. The movie also shows her as assertive,
somewhat rebellious, and headstrong. While she does exhibit some of these characteristics in the
book, she is typically mild-mannered.
Janies psychoemotional development is represented by the pear tree in the book. She is
enchanted by a seemingly magical union of a bee and pear blossom. She is able to dreamingly lie
under the tree and fantasize. It is under this tree that she beings to experience a sensual
awakening. So this was a marriage Janie thinks to herself (Hurston 11). However, the pear
tree is briefly shown in the movie, but to someone who has not read the book, it is small and does
not show much significance. The book details her emotional relationship with the tree and
alludes it as the symbol of her deep search for love throughout her whole life. Her sacred ideals
of love are changed when she is forced by her Nanny to marry Logan Killicks. Of course, she
does not love him and still longs for love and romance. When she meets Joe Starks (Jody), she is
taken by his style and smooth talk. She equates her physical attraction to him and his seductive
words to a potential love, so she runs off with him with no dilemma (Hurston 31). She now
believes shell have love and romance in her life from now. The movie and the book both allow
us to peek into her marriage with Joe. She is proud of her husband and seems to project her idea
of what she thought love was. Unfortunately, as time goes on she recognizes that she is
emotionally controlled by him, and begins to grow unhappy. She considers running away in the
book, however, in the movie, she attempts to run but is stopped when she realizes that she
doesnt have the strength or power (being that she gave it to Jody) to run away.
Once Jody dies, Janie begins her experience things that teach her who she is. She shares these
experiences with Tea Cake, whom she is in love with. Her association with Tea Cake allows her
to develop socially with her neighbors and she feels a part of her community. This is not
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emphasized much in the movie. While Tea Cake acknowledges her beauty, he does not treat her
as a trophy wife. He allows her to express herself and gives her the romantic fulfillment she has
been in search for. In the book she marries Tea Cake, however, in the movie, she is simply his
common law wife. Perhaps this was done to show Janie as an independent feminist.
Another interesting omission from the movie occurs in the Everglades in the film. The movie
misses the sense of social development that Janie experiences with her community. Motor Boat,
Sop-de-Botom, and Stew Beef are not included and the racist Mrs. Turner is completely left out.
Mrs. Turner is a key figure that helps bring racism as a personal reality to Janie as Mrs. Turner
loves her fair skin as opposed to Tea Cakes dark skin (Hurston 141) . Theoretically, if Mrs.
Turners character was introduced into the movie, Tea Cake would have had to be a darker
skinned actor. The actor that plays Tea Cake in the movie is lighter skinned with blue eyes. The
movie also leaves out the Tea Cakes abusive behavior towards Janie. Tea Cake does help Janie
develop spiritual awareness by functioning as a catalyst that helps her become more self-aware.
She had already began to find her voice after the death of Jody, however, Tea Cake encourages
her to have a voice (Hurston). The movie does not show Tea Cake in this type of role. He taught
her how to shoot, which ironically was the cause of his own demise through Janies hands. After
Tea Cakes death, Janie goes on trial. The trial is completely left out in the movie, however,
which is a key event that shows that Janie is finally a woman who has found her voice.
As stated previously, the movie does grasp a good sense of Janies superficial selffrom her
first discovery of the pear tree to her contentment after the death of her true love, Tea Cake.
Watching the movie and book concurrently can allow the viewer to further understand Janies
psychoemotional, social, development.
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Works cited.
Their Eyes Were Watching God. (2012). Retrieved from schmoop.com:
Hurston, Z. N. (1990). Their Eyes Were Watching God. Washington: New York Harper and Row
Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God.(2005). Retrieved from