Feeling Trapped in a Marriage in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston, was set during the early 1900’s. This book was published near the end of the Harlem Renaissance when artists began to stand up for themselves and make themselves known. Many of the authors from this time period, generally wrote about black culture and identity. Their Eyes Were Watching God, reveals a personal story of how Janie fought to be free to do as she wished in her relationships and did not want to be smothered in any way. While Janie was in a relationship with Logan, she very soon realized that she was not going to fall in love with him. It was noted that “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.” (3.31) displaying that Janie knew that just because she married Logan, did not mean that she had to love him. Nanny wanted to see Janie to marry Logan and live a good lifestyle before she passed away.
After her death, Janie felt the need to stay with Logan, until he got upset that she didn’t help him care for the 60 acres of land and he threatened to kill her. Janie then ran away to start a new life with Joe. As Joe’s wife, Janie lived the white lifestyle that was wished upon her. Joe and Janie moved to the city of Eatonville, where Joe quickly bought 200 acres of land and became the mayor of the city. Here Janie felt trapped since all she did was live in Joe’s shadow and cared for the shop and household. Everyone noted how badly Joe would treat her and how confining he was towards Janie, never allowing her to wear her hair down or socialize. As Joe was getting older, his health started to deteriorate along with his looks and when in an argument with Jeanie, she called him out and said “When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life.’ (7.22) resulting in a slap in front of his company.
After being married to Joe for over half her life, she realized that she had no freedom whatsoever. As the years went on of neglect and abuse, Joe soon after passed away from his old age and health problems. This left Janie a rich widow as her husband who was the richest man and mayor of the town, passed away and left her his riches, which she eventually gave up running away with Tea Cake. Hesitant at first, Janie fell in love with Tea Cake deeper by the day and finally felt free. In her relationship with Tea Cake, she finally learned what it was like to be in love with the one you are married to. As Tea Cake’s wife, Janie learned to work alongside him and help contribute to the household. Along with being able to work, Janie also learned how to shoot and became a better shot than Tea Cake. Janie was enjoying the satisfaction with her life. Janie befriended Mrs. Turner who desperately wanted to introduce Janie to her brother.
Mrs. Turner views Janie as being “whiter” than her and even went as far to show her disapproval of marrying Tea Cake by saying, ‘You got mo’ nerve than me. Ah jus’ couldn’t see mahself married to no black man. It’s too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race.’ (16.10) She clearly thinks that Janie has married beneath herself and should have married “white”. Tea Cake was irate enough to hit Janie when he heard the news of Mrs. Turner trying to introduce her brother and wanted a way to get her out of their lives. A big hurricane comes and in the process of trying to escape, Tea Cake was bitten by a rabid dog, and because he waited so long for treatment, there was nothing the doctors could do. Once Tea Cake found out the news, he was remorseful towards Janie and tried to show her how much he loved and cared for her. He also tried to shoot her, but not before Janie with her gun skills and wittiness, shot him first. After Tea Cake’s death, Janie finally felt free and at peace.
Throughout Janie’s relationships, she always felt trapped and she wanted free of her husbands. Through Logan and Joe, Janie finally realized what it was like to finally love and care for someone once she met Tea Cake. Throughout her relationships, she learned that the “white lifestyle” wasn’t for her and that she felt very smothered. Janie found that she thrives in relationships where she has an equal role and is treated as more or less an equal. Their Eyes Were Watching God ends with Janie finally being free of her husband’s criticisms and to finally live life how she wanted it.
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