'She called in her soul to come and see': The Identity of Zora Neale Hurston's Janie as Interpreted through Paul Ricoeur

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Rene McGraw


Ricoeur uses the narrative as a tool to establish both narrative identity and the identity of human subjects in his most recent work, "Oneself As Another." I use Zora Neale Hurston's novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God", as a practice of Ricoeur's work on identity.

Hurston's main character, Janie, is an extraordinary character whose identity is shaken by the drastic transformations that she with- stands. Given these transformations in character we question who Janie is. Is she the girl who was living a life of abuse until the age of forty, or is she the strong woman that we see when she enters a healthy relationship with Tea Cake? We feel compelled to choose, and yet for Ricoeur Janie's identity is found in both the concordance and discordance of her transformations. Ricoeur also works to establish human identity through consideration of our "aiming toward the good life with an for others in just institutions."