Marriage is usually perceived as a momentous event that finally unites man and wife as equals. However, in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie, the protagonist, faces the contrary. Although her second husband, Jody, treated her as an equal during the beginning of their relationship, she eventually is treated as a lesser part of their union as he asserts his dominance over her. After the death of Jody, Janie eventually found Tea Cake, who treated her fairly throughout their relationship, as shown through his natural willingness and patience to teach her how to play checkers. With their relationship, Janie experienced a marriage where she had the right to make her own decisions and express herself.
Janie has been through hard times, even as a young girl. She lived with her grandmother who took care of her because her mother ran off when she was young. It is because of her grandmother, who wants to be in control of Janie’s life and wants the best for her, that Janie ends up marrying a rich man and getting a good education. However, this is not what Janie really wants. Janie is more interested in happiness and love than being rich, high class, and educated.
On the other hand, Janie’s second husband, Jody Starks, sees women as objects to be displayed, but Janie’s third husband, Tea Cake, believes that women are just as capable as men are. As a result of Jody and Tea Cake’s contrasting personalities and viewpoints on women, the respective marriages
In “Their Eyes were Watching God”, Zora Neale Hurston takes the reader through Janie’s journey from her childhood to her marriages to Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake. During her marriages, Janie learns more about herself in each setting to reach self-realization. When Janie was a child living in West Florida she could be seen as being naive. While she was growing up she discovered that she wasn’t like the others. There was a picture that was taken of her and the Washburns’ grandchildren
Porch. A covered shelter projecting in front of the entrance of a building. This inanimate object served to develop various themes throughout the book, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. She reveals the theme of jealousy and envy, gender inequality and a sense of community with the help of the porch.
The era in which the novel takes place is fraught with old-fashioned ideals. The ideology that women are meant to be subservient to their husbands was prevalent during this time and caused many women to live out their married lives miserably, often being abused both emotionally and physically. Janie is forced to marry at a
Janie laughed. ”(29). Hurston repeats “no (mo’) business” through Joe, and his skepticism stands out more than anything. Joe can’t believe Janie is working, he says she has “no business” to be working. In their society, the purpose of men are to work, and the women just “sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo’self and eat p’taters dat other folks plant just special for [them].”
People come into our lives for different reasons. Some leave a positive impact, while others bring negativity. Readers and critics alike have treasured Zora Neale Hurston’s 20th century novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, for generations particularly for its complex portrayal of the different main characters. The people a person meet and the experiences that person many go through in their lifetime can alter a person significantly. Through the tyrannical words of Joe Starks and the inconsiderate actions of Nanny, Janie in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is negatively influenced as her actions and thoughts alter her life.
Racism can be defined as prejudice, discrimination, or contributions to a system that perpetuates the idea that one race is inferior to another. Racism was heavily enforced throughout American history, specifically in the early 1900’s. Coincidentally, this was the same time feminists, or women’s-rights activists, were in the in the midst of their fight for equality. Feminism is the theory that women should be treated equally to men in terms of social, political, and economic matters. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses the protagonist, Janie, to convey both concepts through her journey to self-love and acceptance.
Over time, women have slowly gained more and more rights. They have become more prominent in society, making more decisions that influence their lives, as well as the lives of other people. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston highlights how the gender roles of men and women differ including women being less powerful than men, how Janie had the strength and determination to gain her own happiness, and how stereotypical roles should not play a part in society. Some people view Janie as a woman who should be dependent on her husband, following the traditional roles of women, being satisfied with her life as the less powerful sex.
Similarly the man overcame the woman in the relationship. Janie chose to conform to the outward marriage and new relationship. She became, in essence, a trophy wife. Janie followed the will of her husband, and not until years later questioned their relationship. As the story progresses, the internal strife between how Janie acts and how Janie feels shows the lack of the true Janie.
Janie further reveals the boundaries and restrictions put on her when explaining, “When Ah wasn’t in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid folded hands and sit dere” (Hurston 112). The mindset of the individuals around Janie restricts her from becoming her true self and degrades her to an attractive female with nothing to offer but her looks. After the death of her second husband, “she burnt up every one of her
Nearing the end of her and Joe’s relationship and following Joe’s death, Janie discovers once again that her horizon is still far away. The way that Joe treated Janie as an object and as a puppet drove Janie to resentment. Hurston states that, “Digging around in herself like that she found that . . . she hated her grandmother and had hidden it from herself all these ears under a cloak of pity” (89). Janie’s self-reflection allows her to realize how much Nanny suppressed Janie from being able to reach her horizon.
Their Eyes Were Watching God “One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself” (Shannon L. Alder). Many African American women during the 1930’s including the character Janie Crawford in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston can strongly relate to this quote. In a time period where several groups of people are being categorized by gender, race and many other factors, Janie overcomes these throughout the novel. The novel addresses the concepts of racism and discrimination, the oppression of women, and finding oneself throughout life.