Analyzing the Relationship of Janie and Tea Cake in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

To Janie’s strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new. Big Lake Okeechobee, big beans, big cane, big weeds, big everything. Weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state were eight and often ten feet tall down there. Ground so rich that everything went wild. Volunteer cane just taking the place. Dirt roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized a Kansas wheat field. Wild cane on either side of the road hiding the rest of the world. People wild too.

–Hurston, page 129

Description: In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, author Zora Neale Hurston portrays Janie, as a woman constantly seeking the man of her dreams. Janie’s first two husbands give her little freedom, force her to do work that she does not want to do, and spend little time with her. The torture that she faces provides her with depression and emotional scars. Eventually, after Jody Stark, Janie’s second husband dies, Tea Cake enters Janie’s life, charming and providing a new relationship that saves Janie from her miserable past. At the beginning of the marriage, Janie becomes suspicious of Tea Cake after he steals her money. However, by winning the money back, Tea Cake regains her trust and deepens his relationship with Janie. The passage then begins when Tea Cake suggests moving to the Everglades. To Janie, everything on the land is grand, the crops that she plans to harvest and the weeds that have to be picked. The couple’s early arrival guarantees them jobs to survive on the plentiful land in the coming years.

Tone and Mood: Hurston establishes an optimistic tone as she describes the awe inspiring Everglades. The author provides an immediate impression of large scale as she illustrates that “everything in the Everglades was big… big Lake Okeechobee, big beans, big cane, big everything.” By employing asyndeton, repeating the word “big,” and utilizing epanalepsis, Hurston emphasizes the seemingly endless greatness that Janie sees in the Everglades. The author’s usage of an asyndeton makes the list of “big” objects seem to continue on forever, demonstrating her cheeriness and implying that Janie’s drive for happiness is finally fulfilled. “Everything,” the beginning and end of the author’s asyndeton, has a connotation of completeness, further emphasizing Janie’s accomplished dreams with Tea Cake. The author continues to reveal her optimism as she describes that the “ground [was] so rich” and that “the dirt roads [were] so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized a Kansas wheat field.” For the second time in the excerpt, Hurston employs repetition with the phrase, “the ground so rich,” demonstrating her laudatory attitude towards the Everglades by praising them in the same way twice. With “rich,” the author suggests that the land possesses wealth and pleasure that Janie never previously experienced. Through Hurston’s joyful and happy tone, Janie finally finds what she was searching for all throughout her life.

The author’s joyous and optimistic tone creates a thrilled mood for her audience. Even Hurston’s description of the “weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state were eight and often ten feet tall” adds excitement to the atmosphere, although “weeds” generally has a negative connotation. This correlates with the idea that life in the Everglades for Janie, despite being required to work in the fields, is adventurous and fun. The author further emphasizes the uplifted atmosphere as she describes in three instances: how “the ground was so rich that everything went wild,” how “wild cane [was] on either side of the road hiding the rest of the world,” and how “people were wild too.” Hurston’s frenzied, repeated, insertion of the word “wild” emphasizes the upbeat state of the land that Janie inhabited. The word has a sense of craziness, yet excitement that adds to the vibrant mood.

Connection to Theme: The author utilizes the tone and the mood of the passage to convey the idea that one can live a better life working in turmoil by choice than being oppressed while wealthy. With Janie’s previous husbands that constantly give her orders, Hurston employs an uneasy tone and a gloomy mood. With Tea Cake, the writer creates an optimistic tone and an energetic mood. The author’s contrast between the different tones looks down upon Janie’s past life and upward towards her future with Tea Cake. This clear distinction demonstrates Janie’s preference for a life where she is allowed freedom at the cost of status.


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