Date of Award

7-16-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas McHaney - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Pearl McHaney

Third Advisor

Dr. Mary Zeigler

Abstract

In scholarship discussing Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s self-realization is central to her identity, and many scholars view and discuss her as a cultural hero. But her success is conditional on circumstance rather than composition of character, a fact this essay explores through a careful comparison between Janie and Tweet, a character from Ellen Douglas’ Can’t Quit You, Baby; specifically, while Janie ultimately succeeds in her world—even while confronting gender oppression—she improbably avoids the additional, crippling subjugation of racial prejudice that Tweet endures. Through this and a discussion of definitions and Hurston’s work as a folklorist/writer, I attempt to show that Janie can be more effectively described as a folk hero, a title that: (1) accurately identifies her functions in her fictional society and in literary fiction and (2) satisfies Hurston’s goals in the novel while also accurately reflecting Janie’s journey to self fulfillment.

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