Analysis of Zora Neale Hurston’s Book, Their Eyes Were Watching God In reference To the Character of Jane
Love is Worth Fighting For
Love is something that everyone wants to achieve at some point in their life. In the fictional novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston, love is exactly what Janie, the main character, wants. This book is set in the early 1900s and describes the story of a woman named Janie, who is on the hunt for love. She runs into many obstacles in her three relationships with Logan, Jody, and Tea Cake. She struggles in her relationships until she meets Tea Cake, where her journey comes to an end. Overall, this heroic journey that Janie is on, is all for love. To Janie, and many others, love is worth fighting for.
The Call: There is always something that motivates a person to begin their journey. In regards to Janie, her motivation is the pear tree. When Janie was sixteen years old, she would sit under this pear tree and conjure up her idea of what love is, and what kind of love she wants in life, while doing this Hurston says “She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing 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 from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation” (11). As she sat under this tree, it was almost like it was sending her a message to find a love that was pure, and after that moment she spent there, she wouldn’t stop until she found it. Janie left her first marriage with Logan for Joe to see if she could experience love with him, and she left with Tea Cake to see where their relationship could go. Janie was willing to do anything for love, and it all falls back on the pear tree.
Allies: Going through life without a friend who supports you in everything you do, is hard. Thankfully, Janie had someone there to help her get through the obstacles in her love life, and her name was Phoebe. She was the only person who understood Janie, and didn’t judge her. She wanted what was best for her, and didn’t want Janie to be hurt. When Janie finishes her story, Phoebe explains “Ah done growed teen feet higher from jus’ listening tuh you, Janie. Ah ain’t satisfied wid mahself no mo’. . . Nobody better not criticize yuh in mah hearin” (192). . She supported her and helped her get through it. Phoebe wouldn’t let anyone hurt Janie now that she knew the truth. She never held Janie back from experiencing everything she ever could in life. She supported her through thick and thin, and that definitely makes Phoebe an ally.
The Preparation: You can’t run a marathon without preparing for it. You need a test-run, and to prepare for the real thing. You have to experience it first, because your first attempt is never perfect. When Janie sat under that pear tree and created her own idea of love, she immediately shared her first kiss with Johnny Taylor. After her experience under the tree, she saw people differently through her own eyes. For example, “Through pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up the road. In her former blindness, she had known him as shiftless Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes” (12). In this moment, she realized that she needs to start seeing people for who they truly are. She had to start her expedition now and build up enough courage to succeed, and this is where she prepared for the long journey ahead.
Guardian of the Threshold: Life in the early 1900’s was difficult for colored people, and even worse as a woman. Janie’s grandmother, also known as Nanny, had Janie’s life planned out. Nanny didn’t live the easiest life as a black woman, she was a slave and never had a normal life, or any money to rely on. She wants Janie to marry a man with money, even if there is no love in the relationship. That is the opposite of what Janie wants. Nanny forces Janie to marry Logan Killicks, a man who owns many acres. Janie feels nothing for him, and only marries him to make Nanny happy. Logan is not what Janie imagined under the pear tree, it was even mentioned that “The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree, but Janie didn’t know how to tell Nanny that” (14). Nanny was holding Janie back from her dream, and she stopped Janie from doing many things. For example, when Janie kissed Johnny Taylor, Nanny was furious. That isn’t what she wanted for Janie, but Janie doesn’t care about how much money a person has, and what they can provide her. All she wanted from a relationship was love, nothing else.
Crossing the Threshold: When you are on a mission, you have to get to the point where it actually begins, it could take days, months, or even years. Her first marriage was to Logan Killicks, she thought that maybe her love would come for him eventually, but it never did. She married him because she was following Nanny’s rules. He wanted her to work, but she didn’t think that work suited her very well. When Joe came to the city where Logan and Janie worked, everything changed. Janie ended up running off with him, to see if she could experience actual love. Janie’s idea of marriage changed, “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman” (25). Leaving Logan is where Janie’s journey began. She thought that running off with Joe was the best thing possible for her. Everything comes to an end at some point.
Road of Trials: Every couple experiences problems in their relationships, Janie being one of them. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie had her ups and downs with three men, Logan, Jody, and Tea Cake. Logan wanted Janie to work, which is not what she wanted to do, Jody treated her like a trophy wife, and there was no actual love there, and though her relationship with Tea Cake seemed perfect, they had difficulties. Janie had to fight through the fact that Tea Cake might be with her for the money, it might not have been true, but she had to listen to the whole town criticize their relationship. No relationship is perfect, but it can always improve in some cases.
Logan and Janie’s relationship was complicated. Janie never loved him, and she realized that she never would. For example, “Cause you [Nanny] told me Ah mus gointer love him [Logan], and, and Ah don’t. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it” (23). Janie didn’t even know how to love him, she couldn’t see past the old man that he was on the outside. Also, Logan wanted Janie to work in the fields with him since he owned many acres. Logan didn’t understand that working isn’t what Janie wanted, he told her “If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah first wife never bothered me ‘bout choppin’ no wood nohow. She’d grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten” (26). Logan criticized her for not working, and compared her to his first wife. To Logan, it was normal for woman to work. But, under the pear tree, Janie imagined a relationship where she could stay home and relax while the man worked and brought home the money. That was almost every normal relationship back then. Everyone has a different opinion.
Janie expected a perfect relationship when she left with Joe, he made her feel amazing in the beginning of their relationship. When Joe became mayor, things started changing. He felt the rush of power and started to turn into a different person. He would never let her speak, she was told to sit and look pretty. An example of that, is when Jody is speaking in front of the town of Eatonville before the lighting of the street lamp. He finishes up his speech, and the crowd asks to hear Janie speak. Jody turns their request down, and doesn’t let her speak. Janie feels like her opinion doesn’t matter. She is extremely hurt by this and doesn’t appreciate it at all. Throughout their relationship, he continues to do things like this. She can’t wear her hair down because he doesn’t like other men touching it, and she isn’t allowed to play checkers because she is a woman. Their relationship was ruined, and there was no coming back. Joe ruined it, and didn’t care one bit. If your wife is happy that you died, that sends a very important message. Power can change a man.
Tea Cake is where Janie hit the jackpot, but there are still problems. Dating a younger man sends a confusing message to others. People believed that Tea Cake was after money, and he would never actually love her. Janie had to trust her gut on this one and believe the love she had for Tea Cake was genuine. When Janie speaks with Phoebe, she hears things that she doesn’t want to hear. Phoebe says “But anyhow, Janie, you be keerful ‘bout dis sellin’ out and goin’ off wid strange men. Look whut happened tuh Annie Tyler. Took whut little she had and went off tuh Tampa wid dat boy dey call Who Flung. It’s somethin’ tuh think about” (114). Phoebe was putting thoughts into Janie’s head. When Janie woke up one morning after they left for Florida, and she found that Tea Cake was gone, and so was her money she jumped to conclusions because of what people had told her. She was furious with Tea Cake, she was never able to fully trust him till she was sure that it was true love. Other people’s opinions can actually change your way of thought.
Janie faced problems in all of her relationships, and she was only able to fight through it in one of them, the one where there was actually love between the two. She couldn’t work with Logan because she didn’t love him enough to do that for him, she couldn’t deal with Jody’s rules because he controlled her and sucked every bit of love for him out of her. Janie couldn’t be in a relationship that only made the other person happy, she needed happiness also. Janie is thankful to have finally found her one true love.
The Saving Experience: Though Janie never felt the tragedy of Joe dying, it still affected her in other ways. She was forced to wear black to satisfy the town, and pretend she was sad. The black she wore seemed to represent her sadness of all the misery she lived with Joe more than it did his death. Thankfully, Tea Cake came into the picture. He made her feel amazing, and she fell for him instantaneously. He didn’t hold her back from anything, and he truthfully saved her from misery. Before him, she wouldn’t be allowed to do anything that Joe wouldn’t have allowed her to do. One example, is when Tea Cake and her first met in the store. “He [Tea Cake] set it [checkers] up and began to show her and she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play. That was even nice. She looked him over and got little thrills from every one of his good points” (96). Janie has never felt like this around someone, he brought out the best in her. He saved her from the terrible memories with Joe. He made everything she remembered with Joe, move out of her mind, and inserted the good memories with himself. Tea Cake brought Janie happiness she couldn’t have ever imagined having.
The Transformation: Throughout the entire novel, Janie changes in many different ways. She sees love in a completely new way now. Janie had a lot of experience with relationships, and it transformed her way of thinking. She knew what love truly was when she went off with Tea Cake. She changed both mentally and physically. She could wear her hair down, she smiled more, and she knew how to actually love a person for who they really are. She changed after leaving with Tea Cake, he taught her many things. While speaking with Phoebe she says, “Ah’m older than Tea Cake, yes. But he done showed me where its de thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people thinks de same they can make it all right. So in the beginnin’ new thoughts had tuh be thought and new words said. After Ah got used tuh dat, we gits ‘long jus’ fine. He done taught me de maiden language all over” (115). The age difference no longer affected Janie, she didn’t care what people thought. When she got over the fact that there was a big age difference, she was able to love. She was now able to look past everything that was being said, and have fun. She had no Jody to worry about, no Nanny to tell her to marry a ‘rich’ man. She was free and happy now, she transformed for the best.
The Return: When people work so hard for something, it makes you look at things differently. People realize what they have been waiting for, for so long. In Janie’s case, when she returns back to Eatonville after Tea Cake dies, she realizes something. She experienced the love that she always wanted, and she couldn’t ask for anything better. She got what she wanted, her journey is completed, and she has accomplished her lifetime goal. Similarly, when she finishes telling Phoebe her story, she expresses her feelings by saying “Now, dat’s how everything was, Phoebe, jus’ lak Ah told yuh. So Ah’m back home agin and Ah’m satisfied tuh be heah. Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah in mah house and live by comparisons. Dis house ain’t so absent of things lak it used tuh be befo’ Tea Cake came along” (191). Janie can live the rest of her life in peace knowing that she succeeded, if she were to die right there, she would die filled with happiness. Her house isn’t filled with terrible memories of Joe anymore, all she sees is Tea Cake in the kitchen, in the bedroom, or in the parlor, and it’s a good feeling. Everything is different now, she never has to live in vain and can live knowing what she saw under the pear tree actually happened to her. Janie returned to Eatonville a changed woman.
Sharing the Gift: Janie had to tell someone her experiences with love, and she decides to do that with Phoebe. She shared her gift by telling her story to Phoebe. Janie had a happily ever after, and gained a lot through her journey. She found out what was right, and what was wrong. She shared her experience, information, and understanding on love. Phoebe looked at her very differently now, but it was for the better. She appreciated Janie telling her the truth, Phoebe wants what is best for Janie. Sharing her story was a brave thing for Janie to do, she had to re-experience all the terrible and happy moments in her life, and she most likely struggled. Overall, Janie fought for love, and won in the end.
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