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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their eyes were watching God is a novel that centers on the life Jane Crowford who narrates her story to her friend Phoeby when she returns to her home town. She is a woman in pursuit of true and unconditional love and her own identity. Through her three marriages she is able to learn about love and life (Awkward 96). She grows up around her vigilant grandmother Nanny who wants Janie to get the things she never had the chance to have. As she goes through all this Janie gets more attached to her ideas about love and life. Neither Janie’s grandmother, Nanny nor her to husbands Joe and Logan ask her  about what she really wants in life this makes her to always yearn for something more.

From the start of the story Janie is very different and her life turns out to be very different from her grandmother’s and people in her home town. Through the graphic language used by the author like “The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It….followed her…. and caressed her...” the author shows how Janie looks at relationships, that is relationships are romantic and have love. When she is sixteen years old, Janie time and again sits under a blossoming pear tree, and is extremely moved by the images of fertile springtime (Hurston 67).

Janie is forced by her grandmother to get married to Logan Killicks who is a rich potato farmer after the grandmother finds her kissing a local boy called Johnny Taylor, her grandmother believes Logan will be able to give her a stable life and provide her security. Although Janie protests about the marriage because she wants to get married for love she, her grandmother talks her into it and she accepts hoping she will find love and understanding in her marriage. Logan cares little about Janie’s opinion and makes her to work hard. Janie wants to be loved and wants a man who will make her feel wonderful just like watching bees sink into the pear tree bossom. Logan does not allow Janie to be herself and does not love her. She visits her grandmother and seeks advice about her fears of not ever loving Logan, her grandmother reprimands her and tells her for not appreciating her husband’s wealth, he tells her to go back to her husband because she will develop feelings with time, however she never finds love in Logan. The conversation between Janie and her grandmother show how their perceptions about marriage and life are different. Her grandmother looks at marriage to a wealthy man as a source of security and provision for shelter. However to Janie marriage should offers physical passion and it should also have an emotional connection. Physical and emotional connections in a marriage are very important to Janie and indivisible from her perception about love (Awkward 96). When she tries to talk to Logan one night about their relationship he does not show interest in what she saying or what she trying to put across he only manages to say “Considerin’ youse born in a carriage ‘thout no top to it, and yo’ mama and you bein’ born and raised in de white folks back-yard”. Logan’s habit of constantly belittling her and insulting her make her to yearn for freedom and independence more and more. She assures Logan that she will never worship him the way he wants her to.

Janie meets Joe Starks while she is still married to Logan and she runs off with Joe who asks her to call him Jody a nickname she gives him. She wants Joe to understand her and love her. Janie wants her man who can treat her like a lady and not make her to work. However Joe is a possessive husband who treats Janie like a trophy, he wants Janie to follow his orders. Despite the fact that Starks becomes a respected person in Eatonville, he is unable to regard his wife as an intelligent person something that Janie wants from him. Joe Starks wants his wife has to support his image of being mayor and a successful businessman. He deprives Janie of the opportunity to socialize for example he forbids Jane from interacting with porch sitters or play checkers on the porch of the crossroads store. Jane is not able to get her independence and feels trapped in the relationship. Janie’s life choice after the death of Starks is connected with her longing for true love

After Joe’s death Janie meets Tea Cake Woods, a man who symbolizes true love in her life. She leaves everything behind. Despite the fact that Janie is financially independent and is encircled by well-off men she makes a choice to leave Eatonville with a gambler. She is driven by her childhood dreams of true love in marriage.  She finally finds a man who adores her and she adores him too. She moves to Everglades with Tea Cake and clinches her new life, Janie finally finds true love and says that Tea Cake could be a “a pear tree blossom in the spring”. While living with Tea Cake Janie finds herself and finds out how love can be so fulfilling thou her relationship with Tea Cake is cut short by tragedy (Awkward 56). Janie is able to live her life as an independent person and not according to how people or society wants her to live. She tells Phoeby, “it’s un known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there”

Throughout the different experiences she goes through, Janie gains independence. When she leaves her first marriage to Logan her independence starts growing (Hurston 45). When she gets married to Joe who is so possessive of her and treats her like a trophy, Janie gets inner power and later on in the marriage she goes ahead and stands up for herself to Joe in the presence of porch sitters, when Joe bans her from his room she goes ahead and sees him and even talks to him. She also shows her new found freedom by removing the kerchief and letting her long braid fall back freely to her back from her head. The end result of her lifetime encounters, Janie gains independence and she learns about the value of true love. As a in the novel character, Janie proves herself as a heroine because she is able to over all the obstacles and is able to get what she has been looking for that is love and independence.

Janie undergoes harsh opinions from people of her hometown. At the beginning of the story porch sitters make comments about Janie’s return and Phoeby goes and tells her about what they are saying but she laughs it off. Logan looks at her as a spoilt child who needs to learn farm life, Joe also judges her instead of accepting her for who she is. By enduring the harsh treatment Janie gains her independence. Joe suppresses her independence out of his own fears of another man taking Janie away from him.Mrs. Turner, the restaurant owner, also judges Janie by questioning Janie's choice of Tea Cake as a husband, Because Janie endures the harsh judgments of others, she is able to gain independence and strength (Awkward 87).

The concept of love is connected with the life journey of Janie in the novel. Hurston presents the image of the life journey and the searching of love through Janie who tells her friend Phoeby, “Then you must tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore”. “Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly” (Hurston 3). To Janie women should believe and look for love and not get married according to what their culture entails them to that is to get married to someone who is wealthy for shelter and security as her grandmother wanted her to.

Janie’s character was created by the author (Hurston) at a time when African-American female protagonists were not common in literature. When the novel was first published, females especially black females experienced fewer opportunities as compared to today. Hurston portrays Janie as a strong, independent woman, unlike most African-American females of the early nineteenth century (Hurston 34). This is possibly because Hurston wanted to distinguish and portray Janie as able and courageous to make her readers know that opportunities do exist for all they need to do is just to embrace those traits. The need to also show people that they can move away from the culture of believing that marriage especially for women is about getting security and shelter, they should embrace love and follow their dreams and not what society requires them to do.

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