Their Eyes Were Watching God
Display of Conformity and Individuality in Their Eyes Were Watching God
In the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” written by Zora Neale Hurston, a conflict builds between Janie wanting individuality and also having to deal with others outward societal conformity. This conflict between man and society, or Janie and society, is the backbone of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” as Janie’s conflict with others comes with her journey of self-actualization in who she is and who she wants to be. However, in order to accomplish and finish her journey, she has to face oppression from her husband(s), grandmother, and society.
Displaying conformity to society and its standards when one wants to follow their own standards is very difficult, and Janie learned this through much of her adult life and even when she was younger. While in her younger years, her grandmother, always wanted her to marry young and to a rich, older man, so she can become an ordinary and obedient housewife. While she does it, she certainly resents it but does not show anyone because of the repercussions that would follow if she did go through with it. As she grows older, and she marries Logan, she starts questioning herself and her situation and eventually leaves, but on Logan’s “blessing”.
As she continues on her journey from leaving Logan, she thinks that she is finding “love” when she runs off with Jody but the sad truth of it is she is sucked back into an even worse conformity index than she ever has before. Jody’s main goals are through money, power, social status and to doll up Janie. However, while all this is happening in their marriage, she is losing all of her individuality, which she endures for years on end and repeat. Being that she is the mayor’s wife, she has to wear a mask and truly commit to conforming to the societal standards from everyone else in the town were Jody is the mayor. In her fully committing for so long she loses sight of what she is and buries her true self away. Another addition to her hiding her real self is when Jody forces Janie to wear a kerchief to suppress her youth, gender, and individuality. Doing this further pushes the idea that Janie is nothing but an extension to Jody. Janie, as Jody grows old, finally comes out about how he has treated her and how she very much hates it, but in doing this it enrages the older man, which does not end well as he dies not long afterward.
A little while later after the death of Jody, she decides to rack up with a man named Tea Cake. Doing this the community pushes on Janie, but she ignores the gossip that comes along with her wanting to do her own thing, wear her own clothes, and when she wants to do what she wants to do. In her new relationship, she starts pulling away further from the conformity of her partner and his ideas along with everyone else’s on what’s appropriate for her. Janie finally snaps from all of the tension from society’s expectation and Janie’s own ideals when she is forced into an altercation with Tea Cake. The choice comes down to killing Tea Cake for her freedom of continuing to follow by society’s standards. She chooses the latter of the two and kills Tea Cake, which finalizes her freedom and independence.
To sum up and close, in the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” written by Zora Neale Hurston, a conflict builds between Janie wanting individuality and also having to deal with others outward societal conformity. This tension and conflict stem from her journey into self-actualization, and society’s standards that her husbands and grandmother along with the society have placed on her.
Summary and Analysis of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Janie Crawford, an alluring, certain, moderately aged dark lady, comes back to Florida after three years. The people prattle about her and conjecture about where she has been and what has happened to her young spouse, Tea Cake. Phoebe Watson, Janie’s friend, stands up for her despite all of the cruel rumors. Janie talks with Phoebe about what has happened to Tea Cake at dinner. Janie clarifies that her grandma raised her after her mom kept running off. Her nanny adores her granddaughter and is devoted to her, yet her life as a slave and involvement with her own particular girl, Janie’s mom, has distorted her perspective. Her essential want is to wed Janie as quickly as time permits to a spouse who can give security and societal position to her. She finds a significantly more established rancher named Logan Killicks and demands that Janie wed him. Subsequent to moving in with Logan, Janie is hopeless. Logan is commonsense and unromantic and, as a rule, treats her like a pack donkey. At some point, Joe Starks, a smooth-tongued and goal-oriented man, wanders not far off before the ranch. He and Janie are a tease in mystery for two or three weeks previously she keeps running off and weds him. Janie and Jody, as she calls him, travels to all-dark Eatonville, where Jody would like to have a “major voice.”
A quintessential legislator, Jody before long prevails with regards to turning into the chairman, postmaster, vendor, and the greatest landowner around the local area. Yet, Janie looks for something in excess of a man with a major voice. She before long winds up disenthralled with the dull, smothering life that she imparts to Jody. She wishes that she could be a piece of the rich social life around the local area, yet Jody doesn’t enable her to associate with “normal” individuals. Jody considers Janie to be the fitting trimming to his riches and influence, and he attempts to shape her into his vision of what a leader’s significant other ought to be. At first glance, Janie quietly submits to Jody; inside, be that as it may, she stays energetic and brimming with dreams.
After just about twenty years of marriage, Janie at last stands up for herself. At the point when Jody affronts her appearance, Janie tears him to shreds before the townspeople, disclosing to them all how terrible and weak he is. In countering, he viciously beats her. Their marriage separates, and Jody turns out to be very sick. After months without cooperating, Janie visits him on his deathbed. Declining to be hushed, she by and by berates him for the manner in which that he treated her. As she castigates him, he kicks the bucket. After Jody’s memorial service, Janie feels free without precedent for years. She repels different suitors who come to court her since she cherishes her recently discovered autonomy. Be that as it may, when Tea Cake, a man twelve years her lesser, enters her life, Janie quickly faculties a start of shared fascination. She starts dating Tea Cake regardless of basic talk inside the town. To everybody’s stun, Janie at that point weds Tea Cake nine months after Jody’s demise, offers Jody’s store, and leaves town to run with Tea Cake to Jacksonville. Amid the primary seven day stretch of their marriage, Tea Cake and Janie experience troubles. He takes her cash and disregards her one night, making her believe that he wedded her just for her cash. In any case, he returns, clarifying that he never intended to abandon her and that his robbery happened in a snapshot of shortcoming. Thereafter, they guarantee to impart every one of their encounters and feelings to one another. They move to the Everglades, where they work amid the collect season and associate amid the late spring off-season. Tea Cake’s brisk mind and invitingness make their shack the focal point of excitement and social life. A frightful tropical storm blasts into the Everglades two years after Janie and Tea Cake’s marriage. As they frantically escape the rising waters, an out of control pooch nibbles Tea Cake.
At the time, Tea Cake doesn’t understand the canine’s condition; after three weeks, be that as it may, he falls sick. Amid a rabies-actuated episode of franticness, Tea Cake ends up persuaded that Janie is undermining him. He begins discharging a gun at her and Janie is compelled to murder him to spare her life. She is instantly put on preliminary for kill, however the all-white, all-male jury discovers her not blameworthy. She comes back to Eatonville where her previous neighbors are prepared to turn pernicious talk about her conditions, accepting that Tea Cake has abandoned her and taken her cash. Janie wraps up her describing to Phoebe, who is extraordinarily awed by Janie’s encounters. Back in her room that night, Janie feels at one with Tea Cake and content with herself. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie reveals her experiences and how they had affected her.
Despite the fact that Their Eyes Were Watching God spins around Janie’s associations with other individuals, it is as a matter of first importance an account of Janie’s look for profound edification and her very own solid feeling. When we first and last observe Janie, she is separated from everyone else. The novel isn’t the account of her journey for an accomplice, yet rather that of her mission for a safe feeling of autonomy. Toward the finish of her trip, Janie comes back to Eatonville a solid and glad lady, yet toward the start of her story, she is uncertain of her identity or how she needs to live. When she reveals to her story to Phoebe, she starts with her disclosure under the blooming pear tree — the disclosure that starts her journey. Under the pear tree, she sees an ideal association of congruity inside nature. She realizes that she needs to accomplish this kind of adoration, a correspondence that produces unity with the world, however is uncertain how to continue. Now, she can’t lucid even to herself precisely what she needs. At the point when Jody Starks enters her life, he appears to offer the perfect option to the dull and businesslike Logan Killicks. With his aspiring talk, Jody persuades Janie that he will utilize his hunger for triumph to enable her to understand her fantasies, whatever they might be. Janie discovers that Jody’s effort of intensity just smothers her. In any case, just before Jody’s passing, Janie’s stifled power gets through in a downpour of verbal striking back. Her fairly savage tirade at the diminishing Jody estimates the profundity of Jody’s concealment of her inward life. Having started to discover her voice, Janie blows through social comforts to convey what needs be. Janie prospers in her association with Tea Cake, as he “shows her the lady dialect everywhere.”
Her control of discourse achieves another level as she figures out how to be quiet when she picks. This thought of quiet as quality as opposed to inactivity goes to the bleeding edge amid Janie’s preliminary, when the storyteller bypasses her declaration. Exchange has been urgently imperative as yet, and one may anticipate that Hurston will utilize the court scene to feature Janie’s hard-won, develop voice. The nonattendance of exchange here, Mary Ellen Washington contends in the foreword present in many versions of the novel, mirrors Hurston’s inconvenience with talk for its own particular purpose; Hurston doesn’t need Janie’s voice to be mistaken for that of the legal counselor or government official. Janie’s advancement of her voice is indistinguishable from her inward development, and the show of the court might be excessively imagined, making it impossible to draw out the subtleties of her internal life. Janie abridges the novel’s disposition toward dialect.
Notwithstanding the essential commence that racism holds white men as naturally better than blacks, the narrator displays the abused minority as a network whose constituents disguise and regularly proliferate customary supremacist thoughts. The novel demonstrates a dark network torn by sharp envy, prejudice in light of skin color, and a longing to tear down their more fruitful companions. The most essential part of race in Their Eyes Were Watching God is that it endeavors to investigate dark Southern culture. The novel features positive parts of the culture, but it doesn’t keep away from looking at the injury of the historical backdrop of dark oppression and the impact that has on dark networks at the turn of the twentieth century.
The setting of this novel is in West Florida; Eatonville, Florida. This novel was likewise situated in the Everglades also in the mid-1900s. This can disclose to us a ton about the history on the foundation of this novel. Slavery in the southern United States, however abrogated when of Janie’s life, majorly affects this book.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
In this romantic tale composed by Zora Neale Hurston, we discover that the primary character, Janie saw her life as an extraordinary tree loaded with numerous hardships. “Their eyes were watching God” was composed of a lady’s perspective to recount the tale of a lady urgently hunting down intimate romance and satisfaction. Janie Crawford grew up with her grandma who constrained her to wed at seventeen years old to guarantee a superior life for herself. Logan Killicks was a setup potato rancher, and he was more than twice Janie’s age. He utilized her for subjugation yet Janie declined to acknowledge this way of life. Multi-day she met a tall good-looking man name Joe Starks and kept running off with him to Florida. There are many literary elements the author Zora Neale Hurston used in her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” the main ones are tone, symbolism and point of view. Hurston’s tone is one of profound gratefulness and upbeat festival of the extravagance of African-American culture. She portrays her characters as having an entire scope of flaws, but additionally recovering traits. As it were, these characters are absolutely three-dimensional, and you don’t need to wear senseless glasses keeping in mind the end goal to appreciate the show. Numerous scenes harp on brilliant stories and fun-loving discussions among neighbors in dark networks. Despite the fact that the dark vernacular is to a greater degree an elaborate decision than one of tone, it is exceptionally nearness demonstrates that Hurston thought about it something super unique. More than anything, Hurston’s content is empathetic toward the majority of its characters.
In spite of the fact that Janie denounces a few characters for their indefensible sins, the content sets aside the opportunity to clarify the mindset of each significant character giving peruses the setting important to comprehend why each character goes about as he or she does. Peruses can see the regularly intelligent (and sincerely moving) inspirations for each character’s activities. The grave and profuse tone of the chose section from Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, is appeared through its general phrasing and symbolism. Hurston utilizes skillfully picked words to improve the symbolism, and the two gadgets add to the tone of this scene. The dismal and the unreserved tone can be found in this entry, which likewise happens to be the peak of the novel in which Hurston gives the peruse a sensational picture of Tea Cake’s passing scene. Hurston’s selection of words and sentences will help in making the symbolism. In the principal section, she depicts how Tea Cake folded at his projectile and how Janie pried her better half’s teeth from her arm after he slammed forward in her arms.
She additionally starts the second passage by saying it was the meanest snapshot of endlessness and how Janie yielded herself with Tea Cake’s head in her lap. The saying of Janie’s forfeit is urgent to this scene. Despite the fact that Tea Cake treated her superior to anything her pasts spouses, the demonstration of Janie shooting Tea Cake demonstrates her recently picked up opportunity and autonomy. Through the course of the story, Janie sees the skyline in a faraway place that is inside sight however, are never fully feasible. As she travels through the course of her life, connections, and self-improvement, she maintains her emphasis coming soon. When she meets and weds Joe Starks, he interests her as a result of his political yearnings and appeal. These qualities influenced her to trust they could achieve the skyline.
Janie pulled back quite a while on the grounds that he didn’t speak to sun-up and dust and blossoming trees, however, he represented far skyline. In spite of the fact that he spoke to change and a photo culminate picture to whatever is left of the world, the same was not valid for Janie. She didn’t achieve the skyline since Sparks saw her more than an ownership than an accomplice. The pear tree draws in with the honey bees in a way that goes up against the majority of the qualities and imagery of sexual love. Janie thinks about the tree and the honey bees in the wake of giving a kid a chance to kiss her as a young person. She saw a residue bearing honey bee sink into the sanctum of a sprout; the thousand sister-calyxes curve to meet the adoration grasp and the joyful shudder of the tree from root to the littlest branch creaming in each bloom and foaming with enchant. “So this was a marriage!” In any case, in her first marriage, the picture of the pear tree is defined in light of the fact that the association winds up being cold and without energy.
Appearances matter a considerable measure to Janie’s significant other, Joe. To control the view of the network, Joe orders Janie to keep her hair tied up and satisfactory openly. Janie’s hair has the surface of the Caucasian hair, which furnishes her with some clout in the network since it was not the same as theirs. When Joe kicks the bucket, Janie pulverizes the ties that he made her wear amid their 20 long stretches of marriage as a show of freedom. Starting there on, she kept her hair in a long plait that contacted her midsection and overlooked the town chatter. As the previous leader’s significant other, the townspeople need to keep on putting her in a container, yet Janie needs more from life than to be Joe’s dowager. “What DAT ole multi-year ole ‘Oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some youthful lady?”(Hurston95) say the patio sitters. Janie never again minds what they think. The hurricane symbolizes the almighty power of nature, which trumps even the most serious efforts of intensity by people, for example, Jody’s damaging requirement for control, or Mrs. Turner’s feeling of a racial progressive system, or Tea Cake’s physical quality. While the pear tree, additionally a representative component in nature, symbolizes the possibility of concordance amongst people and nature, amongst sex and love the typhoon symbolizes the foolishness of nature and its definitive dismissal for human needs.
It is amid the novel’s climactic storm scene that Janie, Tea Cake, and Motor Boat examine the presence of God most expressly without precedent for the novel, scrutinizing his reality and regardless of whether he even thinks about people on the off chance that he does, actually, exist. The point of view in “Their Eyes Was Watching God” seems to switch from First Person to Third Person at different times throughout the entire story. At times, Janie is telling us the story first-hand as she experienced it, the first person. But at other times the story is being told through Janie’s thoughts and gives her perspective on things the third person. It even switches from first-person to third-person and back to first-person even within the paragraphs. Though the novel is described in the third individual, by a storyteller who uncovers the characters’ considerations and intentions, the vast majority of the story is confined as Janie recounting a story to Pheoby. The outcome is a storyteller who isn’t precisely Janie however who is preoccupied with her. Janie’s character resounds in the folksy dialect and representations that the storyteller in some cases employment. Likewise, a significant part of the content relishes in the instantaneousness of exchange. Zora Neale Hurston’s novel is a classic.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was Zora Neale Hurston’s second novel written in 1936 and distributed in 1937. In spite of the fact that it was frequently connected with the Harlem Renaissance and was scrutinized by numerous Harlem Renaissance authors.Their Eyes Were Watching God was initially discharged, it wasn’t especially famous among the African American community. A great part of the little consideration the novel at first got was negative feedback made fundamentally by male scholars of the Harlem Renaissance period. What might be the most noteworthy, and absolutely the harshest, of these reactions originated from creator Richard Wright who composed a survey of the novel in New Masses an American Marxist Magazine Their Eyes Were Watching God had a little accomplishment amid Hurston’s lifetime, leaving the print in the late 60s, around 30 years after It’s underlying discharge.
A lot of this disappointment may have been because of the at first negative surveys from Harlem Renaissance essayists which eclipsed the standard audits and corrupted general impression of the novel. In 1971 Their Eyes was returned to print quickly before it left print again in 1975. Today, Their Eyes Were Watching God’s impact is across the board as it is known to be Zora Neale Hurston’s most prevalent work. Regardless of it is at first poor gathering from the African American people group, Their Eyes has come to be perceived as an amazingly powerful and complex piece that stands as a fundamental piece of the American abstract ordinance.
In conclusion, Zora Neale Hurston exercised many forms of literary devices throughout the story. She used these devices to make her story really stand out. In those times people didn’t appreciate the arts from an African American woman. Today her work is appreciated and people really commend her for the way she wrote. Her work is being read everywhere despite all the trials and tribulations she has faced throughout her lifetime.
The Novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
In “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, there are many recurring symbols throughout the telling of Janie’s journey to find love. Symbols often help reveal things about the characters or themes and through the story and they often help drive the storyline along. The use of imagery and motifs not only help to amplify the interest of the reader, but also to elaborate and clarify concepts that show up again and again in Janie’s southern love story with Johnny, Logan, Joe, and most importantly Tea Cake.
In the novel, Hurston describes the horizon as possibilities and opportunities. When the story starts out Janie’s perception of the horizon changes first from desire for love to the need of love, and ultimately the feeling of contentment towards love to show Janie maturing throughout the novel. The symbols that are most apparent throughout the story, are Janie‘s wishes and dreams of love and freedom.
These aspirations started at a young age and are put into an image of a pear tree on the horizon. The pear tree motif is introduced early in Janie’s story. As a sixteen-year-old girl, lying beneath a pear tree in the spring, she watches a bee gathering pollen from a pear blossom. The experience becomes a symbol to Janie of the ideal relationship, one in which passion does not result in possession or domination, but rather in an effortless union of individuals. Pursuing her dream of love, Janie sat under the pear tree and saw Johnny Taylor walk by, she perceives this as an open door to find love: “in her former blindness she had known him as shiftless Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes”. She then saw him as the first rock on her path to find true love.
The imagery of the horizon is used so that the reader can see what Janie’s is feeling while reading the story. “The biggest thing God ever made, the horizon–for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you”. The symbol of the horizon is perfect because the horizon is always far away. No matter where you are, it’s always too far to touch, but never too far to see. Jamie’s life remains on the horizon, she hopes and dreams that true love will come, but in all reality she ends up with an abusive and possessive husband that her grandmother picked out for her. But that is not the end of Janie’s quest for love.
As Janie was sitting outside dreaming of true love a man named Joe was walking and yes, he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees” , but he did offer her the opportunity for a new life, one that she hoped would be better. Soon, Janie realises that “the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another.took the bloom off of things”. She realized that Joe was not her dream, but she stuck with it anyway. She became discouraged, but then her husband Joe dies and ironically, she is actually quite happy about it.
After her second husband’s death, Janie meets Tea Cake, the true fulfillment of her dream under the pear tree, he was her road to finally reaching the horizon. “He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom–a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps.” Tea Cake was Janie’s dream, he was what she had been looking for. Ever since when she first realized what love really was when she was sixteen, under that little pear tree.
Janie, Tea Cake, and their friends can only look on in terror as the hurricane destroys the structure of their lives and leaves them to rebuild as best they can. A pivotal event in the novel, the hurricane marks an abrupt transition from Janie’s idyllic life with Tea Cake. After the storm strikes, events rush rapidly to Tea Cake’s death and the novel’s conclusion.
Throughout the story Janie’s need for love continues to grow stronger as she continues to grow older, because of the multiple failed relationships that have made her look at the horizon and wonder how things would be if her dreams become reality. Her dreams will always be beyond the horizon, but that does not mean she’ll ever stopped trying to reach it.
The American Dream in and Their Eyes Were Watching God
Since America’s formation, the meaning of the “American Dream” has changed vastly. One version of this prospect is shown in And Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel set in late 1800’s America. It follows Janie Starks, a mixed woman who is trying to find her own version of the American Dream. Janie attempts to pursue the American Dream by searching for true love and independence; even being set back due to race and gender, she ultimately achieves her goals.
Janie’s version of the American Dream is to be able to find a love in which she is able to freely and fully love someone. In the second chapter, Janie notices a bee pollinating a pear tree, and reacts to it with, “So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation.” She sees love as a mutual relationship in which both counterparts are able to put in equal effort and respect. This is further shown when she says in the next chapter, “But Nanny, Ah wants to want him sometimes. Ah don’t want him to do all de wantin’.” Her dream is finding a partner who she is on equal footing with, one who is able to see eye-to-eye with her and who loves her as a person.
Janie’s pursuit of the American Dream changes throughout the book. At first, she attempts to pursue it when, “Through pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up the road. In her former blindness she had known him as shiftless Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes.” She is ignorant to the fact that love is more than just finding someone to give affection and expecting them to see her in the same light. Throughout Janie’s experiences with her first two husbands, her hope of experiencing her idea of love is diminished by her husbands’ controlling and degrading natures. However, her method of pursuit changes once again when she meets Tea Cake. In chapter twelve, Janie states, “Tea Cake love me in blue, so Ah wears it. Jody ain’t never in his life picked out no color for me. De world picked out black and white for mournin’, Joe didn’t. So Ah wasn’t wearin’ it for him. Ah was wearin’ it for de rest of y’all.” Tea Cake, in a metaphorical sense, shows Janie a world of colors. One in which she has found someone who truly loves her and that she truly loves back. Therefore, she pursues Tea Cake instead by running away from her old life and into a new life where she has someone who respects her for who she is and treats her as an equal.
Some obstacles Janie faces in her pursuit of the American dream is encountering those who degrade people based on gender and race. In chapter five, when townspeople are gossiping about Janie, they wonder, “Whut make her keep her head tied up lak some ole ‘oman round de store? Nobody couldn’t Bit me tuh tie no rag on mah head if Ah had hair lak dat. Maybe he make her do it.” Throughout Janie and Jody’s relationship, the author makes it clear that Jody expects her to be silent and obedient due to her being a woman. The fact that he makes her tie up her hair is reminiscent of this fact, as her tying up her hair symbolizes her loss of freedom due to Jody’s desire to keep up her respectful and proper image as a woman. Also, Janie experiences blunt racism from Mrs. Tucker, a white woman who expresses her contempt for African-Americans with, “Ah jus’ couldn’t see mahself married to no black man. It’s too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race.” She then goes on to say Janie should marry her light-skinned brother due to Janie’s Caucasian features. This personally affects Janie not only because it insults her partially African-American heritage, but also because her husband, Tea Cake, is significantly more dark-skinned, and Mrs. Tucker’s words are a direct insult to him. These obstacles serve as a representation of something all women and people of color experienced at the time.
Janie succeeds in finding the American Dream in the sense she finds true love and eventual peace in independence. At the end of chapter thirteen, Janie realizes she has found happiness in love with, “He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place.” She is finally able to open herself up to Tea Cake and love him, as he doesn’t make her stand beneath her, but stands beside her as a partner. This is what Janie dreamt of for so long, a relationship in which mutual respect and effort was given. This is where Janie finds her independence as well, in a partner that allowed her to be herself. She is also able to find joy in her independence at the end of the book. The final chapter states, “The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace.” Janie is at peace even after Tea Cake’s passing due to the fact she was able to successfully find her own version of the American Dream, which was her ability to express herself with Tea Cake, and truly and fully love him.
While it is a long and grueling process, Janie finds her own version of true love and independence. This truly expresses the idea of the American Dream by showing that despite major setbacks someone might experience, it is still possible to push through struggles to a brighter future. This serves as a reminder to we Americans that we are able to do the exact same—that the true American Dream is the ability to make a life for yourself, and to be yourself while doing so.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: a Novel Based on Real Events
Hurston Discussion Board
Zora Neal Hurston incorporated many of her real life experiences into her masterful work Their Eyes Were Watching God. Many instances of overlap from Hurston’s life into her novel were revealed through research into her biography. Hurston was headstrong and determined just as Janie was throughout the novel. Three notable similarities between Hurston and her novel were that she lived in Eatonville, Florida, she lost her mother at a young age, and she possessed youthful, infectious good looks.
A large portion of Their Eyes Were Watching God took place in Eatonville, Florida, where Hurston spent much of her childhood. Eatonville was the first self-governing all black town in the United States and Hurston moved there when she was just a toddler. Black citizens got to decide much of how the town came together and was run, and both Janie and Hurston had someone close to them who played a part in the building of Eatonville. Janie witnessed her husband’s influence on the town while Hurston witnessed her father’s. Hurston described the erection of Eatonville in her novel and Janie’s time spent there and by doing so, connected it to her own history and experiences.
Janie lost contact with her mother early in life, saying “she was gone from round dere long before Ah wuz big enough tuh know” (Hurston 10). Janie’s mother did not pass away, but apparently disappeared after a traumatic Janie’s grandmother tells her about. Hurston lost her mother in real life as well at the young age of thirteen. As Hurston experienced a life without her mother, so did Janie in her novel. This similarity is a saddening one, but it shows more correlation between Hurston’s real life and the ones she wrote down.
One last notable similarity between Hurston and Their Eyes Were Watching God is the possession of striking good looks held by her main character and Hurston herself. Janie’s looks were regarded repeatedly throughout the novel. In one instance it was said of Janie, “The men noticed her firm buttocks…the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume…her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt” (Hurston 2-3). Throughout all stages of Janie’s life, she remained an object of fascination and beauty. Hurston also possessed notable good looks herself. In fact, in order to qualify for free public schooling, Hurston, at the age of 26, subtracted ten years from her birthdate and passed as a decade younger than she was for the remainder of her life. Photographs of Hurston show that she indeed was beautiful, just as Janie was in her novel.
Love was one of the most prominent themes in Janie’s life. Her early life begins wrapped in her grandmother’s fierce love which eventually leads to her first marriage. Janie searches for love within her first marriage, but unable to find it she resolves to run away with her second husband, Joe. Her marriage with Joe did not result in the love she thought it would bring. Joe’s treatment of Janie squandered any hope of love the two could have shortly after their wedding. With Joe’s passing, however, Janie did begin to love and respect herself. It was only with Tea Cake that she experienced the love she had been searching for her whole life. It was in Janie’s third marriage that she was happiest and most content, and even with Tea Cake’s passing Janie continued to live on the with hope and peace that her love with Tea Cake had brought her.
Loss of Identity
Janie did not know it when she ran away with Joe, but when she signed the marriage papers she also signed away her identity. Throughout her years with Joe, he stripped away countless pieces of her identity. She was no longer herself, but Joe’s trophy wife. He wanted her on a pedestal for everyone in the town to look at. She was to be envied, not interacted with. Joe began this attack on Janie’s identity by telling her to wrap her trademark feature away, her hair. He then began limiting the activities she could participate in and the people she could interact with. She was just an object to Joe. Her mind held no value to him. Even as Joe was on his deathbed, Janie exclaimed, “You done lived wid me for twenty years and you don’t half know me atall” (Hurston 102). The gradual loss of identity and abuse Janie endured was hard to read. It was redeeming to see Janie reclaim her identity with Tea Cake.
Growth and Change
Janie experiences many changes throughout her story and by the end of the novel is a very different person from the 16-year-old girl to whom we were first introduced. For the majority of Janie’s life, she was under someone’s rule. Whether it be her Nanny, Logan Killicks, or Joe Stark, Janie lived largely in submission. After Joe’s death, Janie experienced a strange freedom that she had never known. She reveled in her freedom and the newfound loneliness that she enjoyed. This growth allowed her to open up to Tea Cake and his love for her. She was able to push past much of the abuse Logan and Joe had put her through and live a new life. Janie changes for the better and learns to truly accept herself.
Janie’s marriage with Joe was the most hurtful relationship she endured. Joe constantly berated her, put her down, and insulted her. His words knew no bounds- especially in the presence of others. Joe would spitefully comment on Janie’s appearance or actions in front of others in order to push attention away from himself. His sexist attitude prevented Janie from doing countless things she wanted too. He was also jealous of Janie to the point he would not tolerate her wearing her hair down. Within her marriage to Joe, Janie’s spirit wilted and grew dusty. When Joe slapped Janie the first time, “something fell off the shelf inside her…it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams.” Janie suffered Joe’s mental, emotional, and physical abuse for 20 years, and even during the cold sweat of death he continued to fight her. It was only after Joe’s death and Janie’s budding relationship with Tea Cake that she began to shed the burden of Joe’s abuse.
A Connection of Their Eyes Were Watching God with Bible
WHO IS PHEOBE IN THE BIBLE
Their eyes were watching is a story of Janie Crawford such for love. As told in the form of frame, Janie makes a return journey to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, after being absent for nearly two years. Her neighbors are eager to know where she had been and what has occurred to her. They are shocked to see her come back in dirty overalls when she left in clean bridal satin. Janie narrates her story to Phoebe Watson and after the story is over, the novelist returns back to Janie’s back steps. Hence the story which in reality spans for almost forty years in Janie’s being is ‘framed’ by a sunset visit involving two friends.
Phoebe Watson is Janie’s greatest friend and confidante. The whole book is a description of Janie’s life narrative, as told by Phoebe. Janie adores Phoebe for her unbolt ear and her non hypocritical attitude. She is actually the channel Janie needs to expel her feelings regarding Joe Starks, marriage and tea cake. Phoebe defends Janie’s behavior and takes a contemporary standpoint- that Janie is her lady and has a firm ground behind all her deeds. As a friend, Phoebe’s loyalty is moving and manipulates to readers to perceive Janie in a positive light.
Phoebe is compared to characters in the bible, both in the New Testament and the Old Testament. For instance, Phoebe is seen as a companion to Janie Crawford. Phoebe’s lone purpose in Hurston’s story is to act as a confidante to Janie. She is the compassionate ear to which Janie is able to pour her entire feelings and emotions into. Phoebe’s motive is totally unselfish. She is inaudibly certain that Janie will talk to her and clarify what took place during the past one year and a half. Phoebe welcomes her pal with the gift of foodstuff. Janie tells Phoebe that Tea Cake did not run off with the cash that Joe left her. She further tells Phoebe that the money is safe in the bank and that Tea Cake had died. Janie then informs Phoebe about the months she had spent with Tea Cake. All these happen after Janie has had enough resting and soothing of feet. (Hurston 6). Phoebe’s actions toward Janie are a clear indication of how she is the best companion for Janie after her comeback given that she was away for one and a half years. Phoebe can be compared with Mary in the bible, the virgin mother of Jesus and then wife of Joseph. Mary humbles herself and accepts to be a companion to Joseph despite all the public humiliation and danger that would follow. Mary accepts to be married to a carpenter who was seen to be a poor man. This clearly defines how Mary is humbled and a true companion to Joseph. (Mathew 1)
In addition, Phoebe is compared with Moses in the bible since they both come out to be compassionate and mediators between two people. In the narrative, Phoebe defends Janie to the porch sitters. She definitely believes that Janie does not have to share any of her private dealings with them. She makes an assumption that Janie is hungry and thereafter she volunteers to find Janie a port of mullet rice. She then finds her way through the darkness to Janie’s back steps. (Hurston 7). By comparison, Moses is seen as a hesitant redeemer of Israel in it migration from oppression to the Promised Land. Moses is seen as the mediator between Israel and the people, transforming the Israelites from a demoralized ethnic cluster into a land founded on spiritual laws. His celebrated miracles before pharaoh make him a great conqueror of the Old Testament.
Moreover, Phoebe is seen to be rational. She acts as a legal voice of rationale, presenting all of community’s norms not in a negative critical light but as they were supposed to be balanced prescriptions to keep women out of danger. Phoebe stood up sharply so as to protect Janie from those who were forcing her to narrate what had happened to her while she was away. Phoebe insisted that it was not their business to know Janie’s private affairs. (Hurston 6)Her reasoning was tending to present the society’s norms that go around protecting women from danger. In the bible Abraham is also seen to be rational. He is presenting the beliefs of the society as per the ancient days. Abraham practices the monotheistic adoration of God and he has a strong faith in his creator despite the many challenges he is facing. His faith sets the pattern for the Israelites religious view of righteousness.
On the other hand, Phoebe is identified to be non judgmental. She gives Janie a benefit of doubt at the time when the townspeople are gossiping fiercely about Janie. She becomes an audience to Janie’s story and her being there is irregularly felt in the informal speech that the narrator mixes in with a more complicated narrative style. Phoebe is also the channel Janie needs to expel her emotions and feelings about Joe Starks, marriage and Tea Cake. Unlike much of Eatonville, she defends Janie and takes a very contemporary stand. In the bible, Job remains truthful to God even with all the suffering he is undergoing. The topic of God and Satan’s immense experiment is to determine human faithfulness to God amidst of intense pain. Job scorns poor nutrition and the recommendations of his friend’s instead of questioning God’s role in human suffering. Job hesitates to make a final judgment on God since he has a strong faith on him. This clearly compares him to Phoebe in the story their eyes were watching God.
Another trait that is comparable to a trait in the bible is curiosity. According to the story their eyes were watching, (Hurston 10) Phoebe is eagerly waiting to listen to Janie’s story concerning her past.
They sat there in the fresh young darkness close together. Phoebe eager to feel and do through Janie, But hating to show her zest for fear it might be thought mere curiosity. Janie full of that oldest human longing self revelation, Phoebe held her tongue for time but she couldn’t help moving her feet
Phoebe’s curiosity makes learn that Tea Cake had died. She is even more curious to know why Tea Cake died. In the bible story, Eve became curious to know the Kind of fruit they were prohibited from eating. Satan in the form of a snake appeared to Eve and urged her to try the forbidden fruit. Satan convinced Eve that upon eating the fruit, they would become as wise as God. Due to curiosity, Eve went ahead and consumed the forbidden fruit. Eve also went and convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Eventually, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. All these actions were out of curiosity. They therefore had to face the consequences of being disobedient to God.
Phoebe is also seen to be very ambitious. At the end of the novel, Phoebe tells us that the story of Janie has made her grow ten taller and encouraged her to go fishing. Due to responsibilities of marriage, Phoebe is not able venture the way Janie does. Phoebe represents the audience; just as Janie tell her story to Phoebe. Hurston, through Phoebe expresses her desire for the readers of the story to be mobilized into action through Janie’s story the same way Phoebe has been. In the bible, David is identified to be as ambitious as well. His is known for facing the giant Goliath and bringing him down with a sling and a stone. He is remembered for showing a high level of ambitions by writing several psalms. His ambitions enable him to be recognized as one of the most prominent kings of Israel, one of the greatest men who ever came into being. David also had an ambition to bring the Arc of Covenant to the capital of Jerusalem. The Arc of Covenant was Gods symbol in Israel. It had been long awaited for. When David brings it to Jerusalem, he achieves his ambition of unifying religious and political life of Israel in the Promised Land.
Another comparison between Phoebe and the characters in the bible is based on the act of caring for each other. Phoebe really shows a great concern when Janie arrives after one and a half year of disappearance. Phoebe ensures that she goes to get Janie something for her stomach.(Hurston 7) She does it hurriedly having in mind Janie’s situation.
Phoebe hurried on off with an enclosed bowl on her hands. She left the verandah pelting her back with unasked questions. They hoped the answers were harsh and strange. When she arrived at the place, Phoebe didn’t go in by the front entry and down the palm walk to the front entrance. She went around the hedge corner and went in the closed gate with a plate full of mullet rice.
In the bible, God is noted as the most caring being. He is the creator of the world and the most powerful being. According to the bible, God cares for his creation by offering protection to human beings. In the Old Testament, God intervened to those who believed in him during wars and times of difficulties. He manifested himself in the form of an angel, fire, wrestler and a silent whisper. God also cared for his people during hunger. He provides for the Israelites by providing manner and water when they were starving. As the figurehead of the Israelites and force behind every event, God reveals his plans by speaking to the people. His physical manifestations are not direct. We are reminded that the Lord is our shepherd for we shall not want. (Psalm 23)
Phoebe Is Janie’s best friend in Eatonville. Phoebe tries to understand Janie’s situation at the time when every member of the town is seriously gossiping about her. Phoebe pays keen attention to Janie’s story. This is evident in the colloquial speech that the narrator mixes with the complicated narrative styles. (Hurston 7). According to the bible, Jesus had a very close friend who was among his disciples. Jesus and the disciple John were essentially best friends. Jesus entrusted him with the care of his mother. He also gave John the apparition of transfiguration and allowed him to watch his wonderful miracles. Jesus later on gave John the book of revelation. It is only the gospel of John that mentions the disciple whom Jesus loved. This clearly indicates how much Jesus and John were great friends. Apostle John is seen to be the longest living disciple according to the early church doctrine in the bible. This to Some extent may also show us how much Jesus and John were great friends.
Furthermore, Phoebe is seen as a very reasonable being. She makes good reasoning at the time when Janie comes back in a dirty overall. Phoebe ensures that Janie is not humiliated by the public at the time she arrives. She defends Janie by telling the crowd that it is none of their business trying to find out what took place to Janie at the time when she was away. Janie goes round with a heaped plate of mullet rice looking for Janie. After she finds her, Janie eats as she gives her audience. It would be very unreasonable for Janie to be left eating alone without any company. Phoebe at least tries to make Janie comfortable at the place. She allows Janie to clean herself and have soothing of foot before taking supper. This shows how much Phoebe is reasonable regarding Janie’s situation. In the bible, Noah is also seen to be very reasonable enough. He builds an arc to save the animal population and human race from destruction. He initially makes a decision to inform the human race about the coming rains that would cause floods. Noah therefore forms the first attempt of God to form a covenant with one person through him.
Phoebe can be identified to be very unselfish according to the story their eyes were watching God. She shows this by giving a warm welcome to Janie when she comes back home after Tea Cakes death. Phoebe takes the whole responsibility of preparing food for Janie. This is a clear indication that Phoebe is very generous and understands every person’s situation. According to the bible, Abraham comes out to be very unselfish. This is shown when he offers to sacrifice his only son Isaac as asked by God. He tricks his son and finally he reaches the alter where he is to sacrifice his only son. He attempts to carry out a procedure that many people cannot afford to do. Abraham is stopped by an angel of God upon lifting the knife to sacrifice his only son. This is also a clear indication of how strong Abraham’s faith was.
On the other hand, the story brings Phoebe out as very irresponsible. She cannot get married since she fears the responsibility associated with marriage. This shows us that she is not ready for any responsibility relating to family affairs. The author informs us that Phoebe cannot afford to be married as Janie since she fears responsibility. According to the bible, David comes out to be very irresponsible at the time when he was the king. He sleeps with Bathsheba who was already married. This according to the bible is considered to be adultery. The end result of King David’s act led to the birth of Solomon who also later becomes a very wise and successful king.
Phoebe can also be said to be very interactive. She talks a lot with those who are trying to humiliate Janie at the time when she is back after Tea Cakes death. She interacts fully with the people and warns them against humiliating Phoebe who came back in a dirty overall. (Hurston 7). Phoebe also participates when Janie is narrating her story to her. This is evident by the occasional colloquial expressions shown by the author in between other aspects of literature. Phoebe’s interaction with Janie enables her to know what Janie went through during her disappearance period. (Hurston 8). In the bible, Job is also seen to be very interactive. He interacts with the devil, God and his friends. During the time that Job was being put into temptation, he interacted with the devil that was encouraging him to curse God. The devil informed him that his god was so uncaring and that was the reason behind his suffering. His friends too interacted with him while giving him their pieces of advice. Job also interacted with God while asking him the reason why he had to undergo such suffering. This clearly shows how much Job was interactive. Therefore, Phoebe and Job are seen to have one character trait in common.
Finally, Phoebe is described to be intelligent. This is because she is able to remember the narration she was told by Janie. She there after narrates the whole story of Janie’s life. This indicates her level of remembering events and happenings. Phoebe is intelligent enough to make wise decision when Janie arrives. She saves her from public humiliation and hunger. In the bible, God is identified to be the most intelligent of all beings. It is because of his intelligence that he created the world in a uniform way out of a deformed figure. God’s intelligence is also seen when He advices Noah to build an arc at the time when God destroyed the earth. God’s intelligence is also evident in the bible when He sent His son Jesus to save the world from sins. He sent his son who was to shed blood so as to save the world from satanic ways. God also sent manner and water to the Israelites to save them from hunger. It is because of His intelligence that He them a leader who was to help them come out of captivity into the Promised Land. In the bible, God created the world in an orderly manner and to perfection. He created different things on different specific days and had one day to rest. It is because of His intelligence that he allocated six working days to man and one day of resting. Therefore God is generally said to be the source of intelligence on earth. No any other creature can reach His intelligence since He is also the giver
Representation of the 1920s and 1930s Period in the U.s. in Their Eyes Were Watching God
The 1920’s and 1930’s were a time of great change. Progressive reforms embodied the nation’s growing sense of social responsibility and economic policies led a booming economy to come crashing down. The novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston portrays this time period clearly and shows certain aspects of this time period that conventional historical studies do not.
The Great Depression was the hardest time economically for many nations in modern history. Begun in the United States after the stock market collapsed, the depression soon spread all over the world. “Black Tuesday,” the day when the stock market crashed, occurred on October 29th, 1929. The end of the Great Depression varies from after FDR’s economic reform took place to the building up of WWII, depending on the source.
The causes of the Great Depression were both diverse and numerous. The stock market crash of 1929 was a major cause. This event plunged us into the economic hardship. Bank failures also drastically hurt America. During the 1930’s, over 9,000 banks failed (Top 5 causes of the Great Depression). The banks who managed to survive were fearful of lending money to investors, which hurt the economy to an even greater extent. Just as banks began to not give out as much money, consumers also began to buy less. With a smaller demand for items, there was also a smaller demand for jobs, raising unemployment. A new system of purchasing in installments had arisen in the 1920’s and now many people were unable to keep up with their payments. The ratio of supply and demand was now dangerously unbalanced.
America’s foreign policy also exacerbated the economic problems. In 1930, the Hawley-Smoot Tariff was passed. This was a high protective tariff, lessening trade with foreign countries (Top 5 Causes of the Great Depression). The drastic drought that occurred in the Mississippi Valley in 1930 only worsened the situation. Many farmers became unable to support themselves and had to sell their farms.
Herbert Hoover was elected the 31st president in 1928 with a great majority of electoral votes. Unluckily for Hoover, the economic meltdown occurred 8 months into his presidency. Hoover was seen as cold and uncaring by the public because of his economic policies. He stuck to his principles in not giving money directly to the people. He believed that this practice would make the public dependent on government hand-outs (pros 129). Instead of proposing direct welfare, Hoover initiated some government relief plans, cut taxes significantly, and supported several acts lending money to banks. (pros 129). Most of all, Hoover believed optimism was essential to recovery, which led him to announce to the American public that the hard times were over in the depths of the depression. Altogether, Hoover was an extremely ineffective president.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected the 32nd president on a wave of anti-Hoover enthusiasm. Roosevelt helped the nation to recover and move through the Great Depression though government action and optimism. During his inaugural speech, Roosevelt told the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Within his first 100 days in office, Roosevelt made many changes to agriculture, business and relief to the unemployed, according to his “New Deal.” When faced with criticism, Roosevelt responded with higher taxes on the rich, more control of banks, social security and work relief programs. Roosevelt’s policies’ success has been highly debated and cannot be seen as simply good or bad. Roosevelt was the only president to ever serve more than two terms. (Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt)
The Harlem Renaissance was a major presence during this time period. This movement was an intellectual blooming of the African American community, or as Alain Locke said, a “Spiritual Coming of Age” for the black community (Harlem Renaissance). This institution took place in Harlem, New York during the 1920’s.
This renaissance began for many reasons. These included the high amount of racism present in America and the Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities. Prosperity was flowing during the early 1920’s and African Americans wanted to get their share. Many turned to literature and other creative pathways to achieve this success. African American writers began to cherish and celebrate their own heritage for the first time in African American history. Alain Locke correctly portrayed the sentiment among these authors when he stated that the Harlem Renaissance turned “social disillusionment to race pride.” (Harlem Renaissance)This time period helped to bring about a new black cultural identity and to change race shame to pride.
Among leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, one of the most influential was Alain Locke. Locke was born September 13, 1885 in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard and was the first African American Rhodes Scholar. Over the course of his life, he taught at Howard University while working on many different thesis and books. Probably his most well know book, The New Negro, was published in 1925. This great work deeply inspired the Harlem Renaissance, and also Zora Neale Hurston. His philosophy in the New Negro was based in the concept of “race-building.” (Alain Locke). Locke taught both self-confidence and political awareness. Locke’s work helped to inspire many African Americans to claim equality and, fair treatment.
Another very important leader involved with the Harlem Renaissance was W.E.B. DuBois. One of DuBois’ greatest accomplishments was to help found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in America. DuBois spoke passionately about race affairs, both in writing and during speeches. He was also an editor of “The Crisis,” an African American magazine of the time (W.E.B. DuBois). W.E.B. DuBois was an inspiring force behind the Harlem Renaissance.
The revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s greatly shaped the race relations of this time. The Klan was founded in 1866 in Georgia but had slowly faded from its original power. With the year 1915 came a great revival of the Klan and with it racism and nativism. The Klan had spread all across the nation by this time with as many members as two million men (“The KKK Expands Throughout the Nation” 60-65). The organization had originally been founded after the Civil War to terrorize former slaves but now, due to the recent influx of immigrants, harassed blacks, Roman Catholics, Jews, and other immigrants. The Klan even gained substantial control of local governments and many politicians were members of the Klan. The Klan’s legacy was to help support and prolong Jim Crow Laws and segregation.
One of the greatest scandals of its day, the Sacco and Vanzetti trial was a blatant representation of nativism and the improper use of the justice system. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and confirmed anarchists. In early 1920, they both were arrested for the alleged robbery and murder of a shoe company paymaster (“Anti-Immigrant Feelings in the Early 1920s” 58). The trial began in May of 1920. Although the state prosecution was unable to prove conclusive guilt, Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted and sentenced to death in July, 1921.
Many people claimed that Sacco and Vanzetti were being prosecuted for their anarchist beliefs and their nationality. Although many different groups objected, Sacco and Vanzetti were finally executed on August 22, 1927. Unfortunately, this trial had a much greater effect than expected as many people lost faith in the American justice system.
Prohibition was one of the most controversial acts ever ratified by the government. In 1920, the 18th amendment was passed which banned the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption nationally. This almost socialist policy was supported vehemently many diverse groups of Americans, ranging from the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and many religious denominations, to the KKK.
The reasons for prohibition are very complex and numerous. Socially, alcohol consumption hurt many families because of alcoholism and the cost of alcohol. Politically, many politicians gained support by promising to support prohibition. Prohibition was also seen as good for the economy since many workers came to work drunk, hindering efficiency. Health effects of alcohol also had an effect on the issue (Prohibition in the United States). Sadly, prohibition did not stop alcohol consumption altogether but merely gave money to “bootleggers.” Mafia crime succeeded extremely well because of prohibition. The 18th amendment was later repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933.
The historical surroundings of Their Eyes Were Watching God give a good insight into the novel. By exploring the roles expected of these characters, much can be perceived about their personalities. New ideas about social reasonability took the form of progressive reforms. Attitudes were changing along with African Americans’ and womens’ roles. The flowering of African American culture known as the Harlem Renaissance also influenced self perception of the characters in the novel. At the same time, an upsurge of racism and nativism affected all people of color living in this country. Probably most important of all, the economic depression that the nation faced was the most daunting economic obstacle to date. Unemployment and loss of opportunities affected everyone around the nation.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was written by Zora Neale Hurston in 1937. It follows the story of Janie Crawford through Janie’s autobiographical account to her friend Pheoby. The story is a journey of self discovery and spiritual fulfillment for Janie while fighting society’s expectations of her. Janie’s journey takes her through three husbands and all across the southern United States, and most importantly of all, down to her very identity.
The story begins with a tired and disheartened Janie Crawford returning to Eatonville after a substantial absence. As she returns to her old house, an old friend, Pheoby, comes by to ask about Janie’s story and to tell the town the newest gossip. Janie agrees to tell Pheoby her whole story, starting from when she was a child.
Janie has been raised by her grandmother who works as a nanny for a white family. Janie grew up playing with the white children and didn’t even realize her own ethnicity until she saw herself in a photograph.
As a teenager, Janie wonders about love and marriage and how the two are related. Her grandmother soon convinces her to enter into marriage with a local man named Logan Killicks. Janie doesn’t feel any affection towards Logan but hopes it will come with time. Three months go by and she still feels lonely so she visits and complains to her Nanny who tells her she will change her mind with time. Janie’s Nanny later shows regret at Janie’s unhappiness but knows she did her best. She died a month later.
Soon after this, Joe Starks comes by Janie’s house and introduces himself. He is an intelligent and ambitious man. He plans to buy land in Eatonville, a new all-black town. He asks Janie to leave Logan and come with him. Once, after Logan and Janie fight and Logan threatens Janie, Janie goes outside and left with Joe. They run away and get married.
Janie and Joe arrive in Eatonville and both are disappointed with the lack of organization in the community. Joe buys land quite a bit of land from the neighboring white and increased the size of the town. Joe calls a meeting of the town and decides to build both a general store that he would run and a post office. Joe becomes extremely influential in the town and was elected mayor. Unfortunately, Joe’s new power and responsibility strain his and Janie’s relationship.
Janie and Joe’s relationship continues to fall apart. Joe becomes increasingly jealous and controlling of Janie. Many years pass and Janie learns to just be quiet instead of fighting with Joe. He tried to hide his own flaws by pointing out Janie’s to the entire town.
Joe began to insult Janie one day and instead of taking it like always, Janie stood up for herself and told Joe that he was nothing but a loud voice; he’s not even a real man. Joe’s pride is crushed and he refuses to talk to or see Janie, even as his health deteriorates. Janie tries to talk to Joe for one last time and to make things right but Joe dies without budging a bit.
Janie is now finally free. She is financially independent and has no man to obey. She meets a young man named Tea Cake and the pair hit it off. Tea Cake took Janie to do fun things and treated her well. While the town criticized Janie for ending her mourning and for seeing a much younger man, Janie disregards these comments and decides to marry Tea Cake and sell the store.
Janie and Tea Cake decide to move down to the Everglades because work is supposed to be good and life fun. Working as a farm hand, Tea Cake spent his days picking beans and Janie takes care of the house. Here, Janie is free to talk and laugh without being reprimanded as in Eatonville.
At the end of the farming season, Janie meets Mrs. Turner, a woman of mixed race who hates her own blackness. She tries to get Janie to leave dark-skinned Tea Cake for someone lighter. Tea Cake confronts Mrs. Turner saying that if hates black people, she should stay away from him and Janie.
One day, passing Seminole Indians warn of a coming hurricane but aren’t believed. Later that night, the weather becomes extremely bad. Tea Cake and Janie hide in their basement and are extremely fearful. The storm passes and the pair decide to leave the region on foot. On their way, the lake dam breaks and water soon surrounds them. Janie has trouble and falls but Tea Cake helps her to keep going. Suddenly, a rabid dog tries to attack and bite Janie but Tea Cake protects her, getting bit in the process. Janie is fearful of the bite and wants to find a doctor but Tea Cake insists that he’s alright.
Tea Cake starts to feel sick and Janie calls for a doctor. She tells the doctor how Tea Cake was bitten a month ago. The doctor diagnoses Tea Cake with rabies and tells Janie he will most likely die soon. He also advises Janie not to sleep with Tea Cake for fear or contracting rabies also. Tea Cake starts to have wild mood swings and behaves irrationally. He confronts Janie, gun in hand, and shots her as Janie shoots him with a rifle. Tea Cake was shot first and fell to the ground, dying. He bit Janie before he died. Janie was arrested and tried for murder but was acquitted.
Janie arranges proper funeral for Tea Cake and then returns Eatonville. The story returns to the present with Janie and Pheoby on the porch. Janie imparts a piece of wisdom upon Pheoby when she said “Two things everybody got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”(Hurston 192). Janie tells Pheoby to tell her story to the townspeople, both to satisfy their curiosity and to maybe help them learn something about life. Janie realizes that Tea Cake is not dead as long as he is in her memory. Janie finally finds the peace she has been searching for all of her life.
Their Eyes Were Watching God presented me with two specific situations in history that conventional studies of history did not. One of these issues was the role of women during this time period, especially that of African American women. The other issue I perceived from this novel was the existence of race colonies. This novel is set in an all-black town and provides quite a bit of information about that type of settlement, which I had not learned about previously.
Janie’s grandmother imparted a great piece of wisdom to Janie before Janie left to be married. Her grandmother bemoaned the mistreatment of African American women, not only by white society, but also by their own black men. Janie’s grandmother said “So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see” (Hurston 14). Even when the 19th amendment was passed, many black women were still not allowed to vote. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s husband Jody was so threatened by Janie that he tried to restrict her to the point of unhappiness. Instead of trying to help their wives, sisters, and daughters succeed, many black men took out their own burdens upon them. For many years, African American women were the scape goat for many African American men.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was, for the most part, set in Eatonville, Florida, an all-black community. This town was also the hometown of Zora Neale Hurston. After the Civil War, many newly freed slaves came to Florida and took up work as farm hands or in construction for neighboring white towns (Black Towns).
The novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is an important historical piece in African American woman’s literature. The 20’s and 30’s were a turbulent time period pictured in this novel. The events of the time period that it was centered on play an important role in the development of the plot.
Divine Lessons from the Novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Jesus preaches that Man does not live by bread alone. From Maslows five tiered hierarchy of needs to the Freudian notion of unconscious motivation, man is naturally driven by many varying desires. Physiological needs are only the most basic, and represent only one step on the pyramid. Security, love, ego and finally self-actualization are all other significant human motivations. External influences also add another factor in determining mans motivation. Zora Neale Hurston wrote of the strong protagonist Janie Crawford and her quest for self-actualization and fulfillment. Mordecai Richler wrote of an incorrigibly ambitious, conniving, and sly protagonist Duddy Kravitz and his dreams of wealth and recognition. These two characters, although very different in their motives, are held back to different degrees by external influences that warp their wants and in the process impede their happiness. Bowing to external pressures and using others expectations to fuel ones motivation often come at an inordinately high cost. Generational differences encumber the success and satisfaction of the protagonists by altering their motivations and dreams in Zora Neale Hurstons novel of self discovery Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Mordecai Richlers account of growing up in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.
Janie leaves her grandmother and now that she is alone, she starts to appreciate and recognize her own feelings. Janie comes to the realization that she has deep resentment harboured within her towards Nanny. Once alone in the real world she is able to realize and detest the values that her grandmother had ingrained within her since childhood. Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he dont tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. (Hurston:14) Nanny had didactically taught her granddaughter to seek prizes of a superficial nature; wealth, security, and status. This concern for only basic and superficial necessities occupied the scope of Nannys belief. Nannys slave mentality and dreams were imposed on her granddaughter; however, Janie was not emancipated or liberated by the dreams and wants of an older generation. The young woman never had experienced the terrors of slavery and her childhood and adolescence were in sharp contrast to the one that her grandmother had known. This imposition of foreign and antiquated beliefs prevents Janie from chasing her own dream and realizing her own success.
In marrying Logan, a relatively wealthy middle-aged black man, Janie submits to the dreams and advice of her grandmother. Taint Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have, baby, its protection. (Hurston:15) This marriage was destined to fail as the relationship was not built on a foundation of love or trust, but rather it was nothing but a function of necessity and practicality. Janie while pursuing her grandmothers dreams is never able to blossom and achieve the balance and sexual fulfillment that the pear tree of her youth had offered. The pear tree was a manifestation of the symbiotic vision of love that Janie had; however, her grandmother saw this love as a vice and an obstacle. Dats de very prong all us black women gits hung on. Dis love! (Hurston:23) Janie sees men and women as fundamentally different, and out of this difference is born her quest. An ideal love for Janie is found when a man could give her things that she does not have, and when she could reciprocate and offer men things that they do not possess. This idea of a mutual codependence is one of Janies dreams. However, thoughts and wants such as these are diametrically opposed to those of Nanny. When Janie leaves Logan for Jody, she successfully breaks away from the grip of her grandmothers slave mentality, dreams and ambitions. Janie overcomes her difficulty; however, up until this point her potential for fulfillment and happiness are encumbered by the influence and dreams of Nanny. This is such because Janie is not allowed to live her own life and maker her own decisions, but rather she is trapped in the dreams of her grandmother. Only when Janie discards her grandmothers legacy of conventional wisdom can she appreciate her envisioned ideal relationship similar to that of the buzzing bees and the pear tree forever present in her heart and mind.
The story of Duddy Kravitz presents a very similar situation of generational conflict. The values instilled within Duddy since childhood by his grandfather produce a dream that is not his own. Duddy is constantly striving, searching, and starving for an end that will not elicit feelings of fulfillment, but rather set up disappointment and anguish. A man without a land is no one. This phrase becomes a mantra for the young boy. While the realization of his dreams alleviates his indigence, it causes nothing but pain and comes at the price of respect and friendship. In the end Duddy has acres of land surrounding a large Laurentien lake; however, he has no-one to share this land with. Despite the fact that Duddy has land he remains a loser. The quest to acquire the land surrounding a beautiful lake north of Montreal forced the young protagonist to scheme and act at times immorally in order to succeed. Duddys most contemptible act was forging Virgils signature on a check to buy the last parcel of his coveted land.
Duddy took a quick look at Virgils bank balance, whistled, noted his account number and ripped out two cheques. He forged the signature by holding the cheque and a letter Virgil had signed up to the window and tracing slowly. (Richler:296)
This despicable act is the climax of Duddys descent into total dissolution. Duddy has isolated himself and now faces his relegation from all those that he previously had loved and who had loved him back. Although this young protagonist is utterly loathsome, he somehow educes a certain sense of pity and tragedy. The tragic element is that Duddy is steered awry by pursuing his grandfathers life long dream at all cost. Following the advice of his grandfather as gospel proved to be Duddys undoing and constituted his demise. The lesson learnt is that dreams rarely stand the test of time. Dreams and goals are not to be left for posterity as part of ones estate; rather, dreams, ambitions, desires, goals, these are all inwardly derived.
The Dave Mathews Band wrote about the fruitlessness of pursuing someone elses dreams in their song The Dreams of our Fathers. The song illustrates the dismal effects that following a parent’s, a grandparent’s or a family member’s dream can have on someone.
Oh, Im choking, Im choking
On the smoke from this burning house
I claw and I scrape
But I cant seem to get out
But who then, who is this
Thats scratching from the ground
Oh, its my world, too
But whose gold is this Im digging out?
Living the dreams of our fathers impedes the chances of reaching feelings of fulfillment and actualization. Where and what are you fighting for, whose gold are you digging for, what are you trying to accomplish; these are all questions that arise when following someone elses ambitions and dreams. I dont want to wake up/ Lost in the Dreams of our Fathers/ Oh, its such a waste child/ To live and die for the Dreams of our Fathers. One can easily squander his existence relentlessly pursuing another persons goals. Blindly following in someone elses footsteps often offers the realization that happiness escapes those who remain blind to their own internal desires.
Ignoring ones individual dreams and in place pursuing the dreams of an older generation with little inhibition results in a meaningless existence where happiness is checked by the nearly impermeable barrier of a dream that is not ones own. What path to pursue in life is a difficult decision that must be made in accordance with many set parameters. A goal must not be entirely the pursuit ones inward desire for that poses the risk of becoming a slave to ones own self imposed needs. As Rousseau teaches in the Social Contract a man who acts solely in his own self-interest is a slave; for he is a slave to his own uninhibited desires. However, as witnessed by Janie Crawford and Duddy Kravitz, the experience of attempting to live and succeed in the dreams of ones fathers is futilely unfulfilling and meaningless. One must strive for balance between oneself and others. Both the aforementioned novels and song show that one must be more than anything an individual with distinct goals, ambitions, and dreams. It is unfortunate indeed to follow the march of folly and end up tangled or trapped trying to live another mans dream.
The Importance of Janie’s Tea Cake in Zora Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’
Their Eyes Were Watching God
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character, Janie, undergoes multiple bad relationships. Tea Cake, her third, and presumably last husband, treats her how she wants to be treated and provides her with a relationship she values. Tea Cake releases her from the feeling of confinement that Joe Starks and Logan Killicks have left her with. He frees Janie and helps her live a life she enjoys.
Logan Killicks tried to convince Janie that she would not be of value to anyone else, and that he was the best one for her. After Joe arrived and convinced Janie otherwise, he put her in a position she didn’t want to be in. He convinced her that she was above the other people in the community, while she only wanted to be seen as equal to her husband. When Joe doesn’t allow her to give her speech, she realizes that he won’t allow her to do many of the things that he or the other citizens of Eatonville do. He buys her nice things that she feels she doesn’t need, and creates a void in their relationship by not communicating or seeming to care about what she wants.
I believe that Joe’s death partially frees Janie from the life she lived. She enjoys herself, and does what she wants to, instead of what Joe wants her to do. Between the high standards and ridicule from the other citizens, and the waves of persistent men wanting to marry Janie, she still feels the influence of everyone’s idea of how she should be. Phoebe often mentions to Janie how the others disagree with her behavior. Janie only becomes completely comfortable with this after she meets Tea Cake.
Tea Cake treats Janie unlike Logan or Joe did. He listens to Janie and tries to provide her with what she wants, rather than telling her how to behave. Their relationship teaches Janie that she shouldn’t care what others think of her and Tea Cake. Janie and Tea Cake are more like close friends than just husband and wife. Janie gets to know Tea Cake, and Tea Cake gets to know Janie, which is something she wished she had been able to do with Joe. She feels like she has an actual relationship with her husband.
Excluding the time right before his death, Tea Cake loved Janie, and was more than willing to do the best for her. She learns to live how she wants to, to have fun, and to take her own opinions of herself over the opinions of others. In this way, Tea Cake sets Janie free.