Monday, February 16, 2009
Musings Under a Naughty Pear Tree
Chapter 2 signals the beginning of Janie's story. Janie specifically chooses to start her story with events from her early childhood in order to give Phoeby (and the reader) a sense of Janie's childhood innocence and idealism.
Among these descriptions, Janie decides to pay particular attention to a favorite pear tree that she used to sit under. Hurston provides an extremely vivid and aesthetic description of this blossoming pear tree, noting its "barren brown stems" and "glistening leaf-buds". To Janie, the pear tree awakens a sense of wonder and tranquility within her; it allows Janie to transcend reality to an untainted state of being, not unlike Emerson's discussion of the relationship between nature and man (and woman).
But this is not all, the pear tree also introduces Janie to her first idea of love. Hurston's description of the pear tree becomes rather sensual in the second paragraph of her description of the pear tree. Hurston describes the relationship between the bees and the blossoms of the tree, "she saw a ... bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree... So this was a marriage!" To Janie, the relationship between the bees and the blossoms becomes her ideal image of marriage. Janie is surrounded in a sense of romanticism; a state of passionate and fanciful love. This overwhelming feeling of passion and desire leaves Janie "limp and languid".
Do not fret though, for the pear tree serves a much more profound purpose than just the manifestation of adolescent hormones; Janie brings up the imagery of the blossoming pear tree for a clear purpose. The pear tree serves as a symbol of Janie's ideal love and also dream. This foreshadows two main conflicts in Janie's story: The practicality of obtaining ideal love and the Janie's refusal of reality. The problem with Janie's pear tree or ideal love is the praticality of it. The pear tree represents a highly romanticized version of love: perfect and unrealistic. In reality, Janie's notion of love is extremely difficult if not impossible to come by; love doesn't grow on trees after all (giggle (better mr. mahoney?) that was terrible). The latter problem has to do with Janie's defiant nature. We obviously get the sense that Janie is an extremely willful and proud woman; she gets what she wants. So we can immediately foresee Janie's constant struggle against reality to obtain her perfect love.
Thus Janie's pear tree serves as a symbol of her ideal dream and also as Hurston's method of foreshadowing Janie's future conflicts.