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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Analyzing Relationships

We live in a society full of expectation. We are expected to graduate from high school, get a job, and get married. Women are taught from childhood to dream of marriage and to add it as a major goal for their future. They are read Cinderella as they play house and left at that. They are told love is something to strive toward, yet, it is typically reliant on the type of man they decide to love. Most likely they will be told to fall for a tall, dark, handsome and financially stable man. A man that can take care of a young lady so she can be looked apon as “respectable.” As society blurs the lines between expectation and aspiration today, so we see occuring in Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston. We see Janie, our main character, fumbling through complex relationships as she strives toward a desire she has embraced in her mind since she was a young lady. In the story, Janie changes throughout because of her marriages, all stemming from a simple meet, a rather “bumpy” relationship, and the lesson each of them brought her.

The compexities of marriage in Janie's life begins with a man called Logan Killicks. Janie was never quite infatuated with Logan, in fact she wanted nothing to do with him. Janie figured she would love him after marriage to Logan However, Nanny, who raised Janie arranged the marriage. Nanny wanted a lot for Janie, she wanted her to sit on the “high seat.” as described when Nanny says, “You com heah wid yo' mouf full of fullishness on uh busy day. Heah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo bown days, and big protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call you Mis' Killicks, and you come worrying' me 'bout love.” (Hurston 23). In this passage, Nanny voices her disappointment in Janie because she sees no reason for Janie's discomfort. Janie was never really “in love” with Logan but was pressured into marriage. The continuing relationship was equally as strained.

The relationship that grew was one of pure business. Janie had a status and therefore here peers gave her a certain amount of respect. According to those around her, Janie had it all. But everybody knows that appearances are easily misunderstood. Logan seemed to have pampered Janie at the start of their marriage. He fingered her hair and told her how beautiful she was and he did all the work, but six months into the relationship things changed. Janie noticed that he was fading away from her, he didn't seem quite so fond of her anymore. He then began to ask her to do something with herself, to work. The first look the author gives of this is when Logan wants Janie to haul in the wood from outside, “If Ah kin haul de sood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside.” (Hurston 26). From there, it goes downhill. Logan begins to belittle Janie and wants her to work behind the plow to help him out with farming. By this time Janie has had enough of the lifeless marriage and is easily pulled away by a friendly stranger, thus, the end of the relationship.

Janie sees now how the world works through her marriage to Logan. Her dream for love was overpowered by her need to please others and to find her place in the world. Yes, in the end, the marriage fails and Janie decides that dreams are for fools. “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman.” (Hurston 25). Though it seems that she lost all hope, a spark of it is shown whenever she meets Jody Sparks.

Janie's dream becomes real again when she catches sight of Jody Sparks, a man in spectacular dress. “It was a cityfied, stylish dressed man with his hat set at an angle that didn't belong in these parts.” (Hurston 27). He saw Janie and talked of monster sized dreams, of going to a town run by black folks and a world where he could be something. He told her how he had saved up some money and was ready and willing to make a life with her.“You ain't never knowed what it was to be treated lak a lady and Ah wants to be de one tuh show yuh.” (Hurston 29). With Janie's dreams of love renewed she set off on another unforseen catatstrophe.

Jody and Janie's relationship was complex with a severe imbalance of power. Jody turned out to become the mayor of Eatonsville and used his power in their marriage. He was jealous when other men looked at Janie so he made her put up her beautiful hair. Even the townsfolk wondered about it, saying , “Whut make her keep her head tied up lak some ole 'oman round de store? Nobody couldn't git me tuh tie no rag on mah head if Ah had hair lak dat.” (Hurstion 49). They also seemed to have insight into the reason for it, jelousy. “Maybe he make her do it. Maybe he skeered some de rest of us mens might touch it round dat store....” (Hurston 50). Not only did Jody restrict how much of herself she could show, but how many words came out of her mouth. The thing Janie loved most was hearing the townsfolk talk out on the porch of the store she worked at, yet, she herself could not be involved in the colorful conversations. For she was the mayor's wife, “...but Joe had forbidden her to indulge. He didn't want her talking after such trashy people.” (Hurston 53-54). However, as the relationship progressed, Jody's need for control backfires as Janie takes her stand. Slowly, Jody withers away into nothing and passes away. This leaves Janie independent of her husband and free to discover herself as a women.

Janie's release from her second marriage leaves her experienced and wise, bringing about a magnified version of the hope it had originally given her. Her initial reaction, in fact, is to unbind the hair that creates her very countenance. “She tore off the derchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there.” (Hurston 87). She didn't want to, but she put on a mournful face for six months to give reasonable pleasure to those who knew her. “Six months of wearing black passed and not one suitor had ever gained the house porch.” She felt she would not tie herself down with another man again, or at least, anytime soon, “Janie talked and laughed in the store at time, but never seened to want to go further.” (Hurston 91). In this phrase the author wants to portrey Janie's hesitation to begin another romantic relationship. She discovers financial independence when she inherits the store although she has negative feelings about just that, “She was happy, except for the store. She knew by her head that she was absolue owner, but it always seemed to her that she was still clerking for Joe and that soon he would come in and find something wrong that she had done.” (Hurston 92). With this, Janie found a place in a little town without a husband. Though Janie finally relaized who she was, ste still had not obtained her dream of love. That is, until Vergible Woods strolled into her store.

Vergible Woods (a.k.a Tea Cake) was different from the very start. He treated Janie as an equal, that stood out to her most. The initial meeting was flirtatious and fun. Janie knew that Tea Cake was not like other guys when he asked her to play checkers with him. With a voice full of appreciation of a beautiful mind he asked, “How about playin' you some checkers? You looks hard tuh beat.” (Hurston 95). He made Janie feel wonderful, “..she found herself glowing inside.” (Hurston 96). Janie feels he treats her as she wants to be treated and it seems to be a fairytale beginning. Though warned by wary friends about getting involved with Tea Cake, Janie feels she's finally fallen in love.

After brief uncertainty about the relationship, Janie falls head over heels. “He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love.” (Hurston 128). The two get married and run off to the Everglades. The strength of their relationship shows when Tea Cake goes to work and ends up missing her so badly, he has to come to see her. “..Tea Cake took to popping in at the kitchen door at odd hours. Then often around two o'clock he'd come home and tease and wrestle with her for a half hour and slip on back to work.” (Hurston 132). It went about like that until Janie agreed to come work with him in the fields so to prevent lack of money. Then “Janie learned what it felt like to be jealous.” (Hurston 126). A girl that worked with them began teasing Tea Cake, flirting with him on a consistant basis. One day Janie found them wrestling around in the field and drew her own speculations. That night she unleashed her anger on Tea Cake, but the anger turned into love and Tea Cake dismissed her suspisions saying, “Whut would Ah do wid dat lik chunk of a woman wid you around? She ain't good for nothin' exceptin' tuh set up in uh corner by de kitchen stove and bread wood over her head. You'se something tuh make uh man forgit tug git old and forgit tuh die.” (Hurston 138). Janie and Tea Cake seem to be perfection, but an unexpected incident brings their relationship to a close.

Janie achieved her dreams and wandered back to her home with dignity and grace. With Tea Cake taken by the uncontrollable force of nature, Janie is forced to let her dream be temporarily lived. She comes out of her marriage to Tea Cake as a fully developed soul and goes about with a newfound confidence as well as a sense of understanding. Janie had found her aspiration, lived it and lost it, thus becoming the Janie that arrives back to Eatonville in chapter one.

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie goes through an epic metamorphisis due to her marriages no matter how they met, how rough the relationship was, or how tradgic it may have ended. Janie became who she was based on her many struggles throughout her three marriages. She found that following somone else's dream did not bring happiness. She understood that wealth,status, and promises were not the hing to follow. And she discovered that true love coulonly exist for one that knew just who they were meant to be. So, Janie crawled through society and it's lies emerging with the ability to see what fallacy it puts on a women's ambitions.



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

CALI said...
Mar. 11 at 11:26 am:
your description on this article is most impressive on this book very good
 
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Phoenix97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 19, 2010 at 8:35 am:
Wow! That seems like quite the book. I think I'm going to have to go find this book now... :) Good essay!
 
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