Janie’s three marriages are key to her development and to the plot of Their Eyes Were Watching God. How do the men and marriages differ from one another? What does Janie learn from each experience?
Janie, the protagonist of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, is often identified as a feminist character. While she is certainly an independent woman who believes in the equality of the sexes, Janie does not lead a typically feminist existence throughout the novel. Largely because of her relationships with the three key men in her life, Janie is often beaten down, silenced, ignored, marginalized, and even physically abused. Yet it is these episodes of disempowerment that strengthen Janie’s feminist identity. She suffers at the hands of Logan, Jody, and Tea Cake, but she emerges from each marriage stronger and more sure of her own identity. Paradoxically, the times in her life during which she cannot be a feminist are what ultimately make Janie an exemplar of feminist strength.
Janie marries Logan Killicks, her first husband, not because she wants to be with him, but because she wants to please her grandmother and hopes that she will learn to love Logan eventually. Janie’s decision to marry Logan is not illogical, but it is a capitulation. Rather than following her instincts and insisting on retaining her independence, Janie defers to the wishes of others. Her marriage brings more forced capitulations. Logan, a well-meaning but oppressive man, wants to keep Janie under his thumb. He calls her spoiled and insists that she labor in the fields alongside him. In addition to this attempted physical oppression, Janie suffers from the emotional oppression of being trapped in a affectionless marriage. But if surrender and oppression characterize Janie’s first marriage, it is exactly these conditions that give Janie the courage to skip town. Because she is so fed up with Logan and his domineering ways, Janie musters up the courage to leave behind the only home she has ever known—something she almost certainly would not have done had she not married Logan in the first place.
Janie’s relationship with her second husband, Jody Starks, is more substantial and complex than her relationship with Logan. It is also more damaging. Jody, who is powerful and charming, imposes increasingly strict demands on his wife. He does not allow her to speak in public to large groups; he dislikes it when she socializes with other men; he insists that she hide her beautiful hair; he berates her when he believes that she is performing badly at work; and when he is enraged, he beats her. Those readers searching for evidence of Janie’s unflagging feminism might be dismayed by Janie’s willingness to put up with Jody. Despite flashes of rebellion, for the most part she behaves like the subservient wife Jody wants her to be. For years, she follows his orders, silences herself, and sticks around after he hits her. In Chapter 8, however, Hurston indicates that Janie’s suffering has imbued her with extraordinary power. When she finally gives voice to her thoughts and tells Jody what she thinks of him, he dies, as if brought down by the force of her rage. Years of mistreatment give Janie the power to fell men with her words. They also give her an outsized appreciation for her freedom. Because she knows what it means to be ground down by a man, Janie appreciates her single life far more than she could have had she never experienced real unhappiness.
With Tea Cake, Janie enjoys a fulfilling relationship characterized by intellectual, emotional, and physical compatibility. Tea Cake is not just a good match for Janie. He is also proof of the self-knowledge that can result from difficult and demeaning circumstances. Only because Janie suffered through two bad marriages can she know that Tea Cake is the right man for her. Despite the happiness Janie feels with Tea Cake, Hurston makes it clear that she has not found an ideal man. Tea Cake disappears. He gambles. He hosts raucous parties with money stolen from Janie. He flirts with other women. He even beats Janie in order to prove that he controls her. Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake is challenging and perplexing. Hurston forces us to acknowledge that despite Tea Cake’s numerous flaws, Janie is truly happy with him. Further, Hurston makes it impossible to argue that Janie has regressed, turning back into the meek creature she was with Logan and Jody. Janie’s willingness to shoot and kill Tea Cake in order to save herself, and the peace she achieves at the end of the novel, prove that she has progressed and gained power and independence.
Hurston continually interrogates the conventional wisdom about what it means to be a strong, successful woman. By giving her protagonist three husbands, and by ending her novel with Janie alone and content, she suggests that happiness does not always involve one husband, children, and a settled existence. And by portraying the bursts of independence that follow Janie’s episodes of subservience, she argues that great strength is sometimes the direct result of real weakness.
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Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel
Their Eyes Were Watching God (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)
Summary and Analysis
This their eyes were watching god essay paper offers a summary and analysis of the book. It will give an insight into the themes, the structure of the book, the roles of the different characters, symbolism, and motifs used by Zora Neale.
There are quite a variety of their eyes were watching god essay questions that one will encounter relating to the different aspects of the book. They will have to be analyzed and answered critically. It is pertinent to have a thorough comprehension of the book and the different literal tools employed by the author.
Throughout the essay, there is the use of imagery to advance the plot of the story. Examples of instances where imagery has been used include The horizon, Janie's hair, the pear tree and the hurricane. There are a couple of their eyes were watching god symbolism essay, focused on specifically these symbols.
What do these symbols represent?
The hurricane: When nature glares its destruction upon the world, it displays its ability to cause chaos, destruction and cause our lives to turn upside down. Even in today's society, hurricanes have been known to cause so much destruction. Such moments also lead people to question their role in the world and who they are as individuals.
The Horizon and Pear tree: Although there are times when nature can display a mighty show of wrath, its beauty cannot go unnoticed. In this particular instance, the author Zora Neale Hurston uses the horizon to reflect Janie's senses of oneness with nature and finally being at peace. The pear tree, on the other hand, represents the beauty that can be found in nature.
Janie's hair: Her hair reflects her strength and defiance to conform to society's standards. She was not going to let them dictate her level of happiness, and how she attained fulfillment in life. Their eyes were watching god theme essay will highlight in detail these pieces of imagery and what they reflect.Structure
Their eyes were watching god literary analysis essay focuses on the structure of the novel in general. The author, Zora Hurston, when writing their eyes were watching God, gives the novel a unique structure. The novel starts and ends with Janie and Phoeby sitting on the front porch. The novel is divided into distinct sections that are referred to as frames. Each frame focuses on a specific period of Janie's life. The other structural aspect is the fact that the novel is being narrated from a third party point, and that the third party can relate to Janie's life. It is written in the past tense.
A variety of motifs have been used in different places in the novel. This is a quest to advance the themes of the novel. While writing their eyes were watching god theme essay, one will encounter a number of motifs. God plays a part in the plot as indicated by the title "Their Eyes Were Watching God". God, in this case, refers to a supreme being who has control over nature. Another motif is the issue of race and racism. Although because the author was black, the assumption was the book was centered on racism considering an issue during that era. The other motif highlighted was the community and the role it plays in creating connections and developing our independence and individuality. Janie's life reflects on how all the three factors have impacted her.
Their eyes were watching god essay summary and analysis reveals a list of characters whose roles have had a hand in developing the story. The main character, who is also the main protagonist Janie Crawford, is beautiful and yet confident black woman who the novel revolves around. Other characters who had played a significant role include:
Janie's Nanny: In an effort to protect Janie from the harsh life of slavery and hardships, she marries her off to Logan Killicks.
Logan Killicks: Janie's first husband. He did not treat her well.
Joe Starks: The stranger Janie flirted with for weeks before eventually running off with him and finally getting married to each other for two decades. He too was not kind to Janie.
Tea Cup: Third husband to Janie. He was younger than her.
Phoeby: The woman who defends Janie from community gossipers, and the one she narrates her story to.
All of Janie's husbands contributed to her finally attaining spiritual growth and independence. She, however, did not let them kill her dreams. Their eyes were watching god essay will often discuss the matter in detail especially is it centered on the impacts each of the husbands had on her.
The background setting of the novel plays a critical role in developing the plot of the novel. The novel is expressed to have occurred in rural Florida, around the 1920s to 1930s. This information is crucial to understanding the community in which she lived in and the principles that they held. Their eyes were watching god essay analysis on the community reveals a society that is conservative in nature and passes harsh judgment on those who against their norms and standards.
Their eyes were watching god essay topics all focus on the different themes, symbols, characters and motifs utilized by the author. Aspects that arise include racism, community and feminism. Finding your voice as a woman is crucial. Their eyes were watching god feminism essay reveals how the community feels about feminism in general.