In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the author, Zora Neale Hurston uses a technique called symbolism with the characters to create a story. Hurston was an African American author, born in Eatonville, Florida on January 7, 1891. She wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in seven weeks, which was published on September 18, 1937. After being forced to enter the St. Lucie County Welfare Home, Hurston died of "hypertensive heart disease" and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce. In the book Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston describes the journey of Janie Crawford, the main character, to find herself. The story follows Janie through her childhood, and through three marriages. At the end, Janie discovers that one must do two things for themselves; they have to go to God, and they have to find out about living for themselves. While Janie is telling her story to her best friend Pheoby, Hurston uses symbolism to describe the oppression of women in that time. .
The symbol of a mule is often used in this book. Hurston uses the mule to symbolize the black woman. Janie's Nanny tells her about the difficulty of being a black woman in their society, in order to make her understand why she must marry Logan Killicks. "Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. . . So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He picks it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see" (14). In their society the rank of people is determined first by their color, and then by their gender. Black women, being the lowest, must carry on the work that the black man doesn't want to do. .
Hurston also uses marriage to symbolize the black woman's oppression. Nanny sees Janie kissing Johnny Taylor, and decides that it was Janie's time to get married.