Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Relationships on marriage and understand her personal


Relationships in Janie’s maturity

                Their Eyes Were
Watching God, written by Zora Neale
Hurston, is a book which describes the life experiences of a young woman named
Janie. Love is a prevalent theme in this book. Throughout the book, Janie
experiences relationships with Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake; each
relationship aids in her character development. She is initially portrayed as a
naïve, young woman who later evolves into a mature adult. With Logan Killicks,
Janie understands that marriage does not equate to love. In order to find a
loving marriage, she elopes with Joe Starks; in that relationship, she
understands that independence is necessary in a successful relationship. With
Tea Cake, she obtains all of the aspects she wishes for in a relationship: a
marriage with independence and freedom. Because of this, Zora Neale Hurston
uses each of Janie’s romantic relationships to highlight character development
and maturity.

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            Janie’s first official relationship with
Logan Killicks allows for her to alter her viewpoints on marriage and
understand her personal relationship preferences. Prior to her marriage with
Logan, Janie believed that marriage equated to romantic love; at this point,
Janie is a naïve, young woman. In a specific instance with Johnny Taylor, Janie
describes it in comparison with a pear tree and bees. Janie wishes “to be a
pear tree – any tree in the bloom with kissing bees singing of the beginning of
the world. She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds… looking,
waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made”
(Hurston 11). The trees represent Janie, and the bees represent her partner.
Janie comparing her life with a blooming flower on the tree represents her
viewpoints on marriage – an interdependent and tranquil relationship just like
the pear tree and bees; to her, marriage equates to love which she long waits
for. Due to the wishes of her Nanny, Janie is forced into marriage with Logan
Killicks which generates a shit on her viewpoint on marriage. At the beginning
of her marriage, Janie does not experience a typical pear tree and bee
relationship; she experiences one solely for the purpose of stability and
security. With her Nanny’s words and her personal opinion, Janie constantly
believes that “she would love Logan after they were married” because “husbands
and wives always love each other” (Hurston 21). Janie, however, views her
husband “to desecrate the pear tree” (Hurston 14).  Logan desecrates the pear tree because he forces
Janie to work in the fields and the house along with verbal insults; there was
no tranquility or independence as Janie was being restricted by him. Logan’s
conflicting personality led Janie to understand that “marriage did not make love”
(Hurston 25). With her marriage to Logan. Janie experiences her first
development as a character where she understands that marriage does not
necessarily equate to love. She decides to take initiative and turn into a
woman and leaves Logan for Joe Starks in a quest to find love modeling that of
a bee and pear tree.             

            Using her experiences with Logan
Killicks, Janie embarks on a romantic marriage with Joe Starks. The beginnings
of this relationship are successful because Janie feels that Joe truly loves
her; over time, the relationship turns purely possessive where Joe exhibits
complete control over Janie’s actions. In this relationship, Janie learns that
independence and equality are vital in a successful relationship. When Joe
becomes mayor of Eatonville, Janie is given an opportunity to speak in front of
everyone. In response, Joe states that Janie is “uh woman and her place is in
de home” (Hurston 43). Joe explicitly states this because he believes that Janie
is not as intelligent as a man and should be restricted from spreading her
ideas. Joe believes that Janie’s position is simply doing household chores and
that public speaking should be limited to nothing. Once Janie starts working in
Joe’s shop, Joe decides that Janie’s “hair was not going to show in the store…
he never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in
it as she went about things in the store… That night he ordered Janie to tie up
her hair around the store… She was there in the store for him to look at not
those others” (Hurston 55). Janie’s hair represents her control over men as
many men are fascinated by it; by restricting Janie from showing her hair, Joe
has a sense of supremacy where he is able to constrain Janie’s femininity and
deprive her of her personal identity. Joe symbolizes male dominance, and Janie
is shown as “a rut in the road” (Hurston 76). Over time, after many years of
being oppressed, Janie’s inner hope and patience transforms into strength, and
she finally stands up for herself in public as Joe does not fulfill her pear
tree and bee dream. Her courage exponentially increases after a course of a few
months; after Joe’s death, she begins to exhibit her independence against Joe’s
dominance. Janie “burnt up every one of her head rags and went about the house
next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging well before her waist” (Hurston
89). The head rags represent Joe’s control over Janie; the burning of the head
rags symbolize freedom and female empowerment as Janie is rebelling against
Joe’s supremacy. She is finally able to be confidence within herself, and she
is able to do as she pleases. Throughout this process, “the young girl was
gone, but a handsome woman had taken her place” (Hurston 87). With her marriage
with Joe, Janie experiences her second character development where she emerges
from a “young girl” to a “handsome woman” (Hurston 87). Janie becomes more
independent and powerful within herself; her inner strength overpowers her
toxic relationship with Joe, and she understands that she seeks independence in
her relationships.

            Janie’s final relationship is with
Tea Cake where she experiences a pure, genuine love: one filled with equality
and independence. With this relationship, Janie understands what true love is,
and she realizes that true love does exist. With Janie’s first encounter with
Tea Cake, Tea Cake treats Janie equally by allowing her to play checkers. Teacake
himself “set it up and began to shower her and she found herself glowing
inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to
play” (Hurston 96). The game of checkers symbolizes equality because Janie
found it unnatural that somebody thought it natural for a woman to play. Tea
Cake genuinely wanting Janie to play the game with him implies that he views
Janie to be equally intellectual as a man. In her previous relationship with
Joe, Janie was forced to suppress her opinions because “her place is in de home”
(Hurston 43). After she gets married to Tea Cake, Janie begins to fulfil more
masculine traits which aid her increase in inner strength and independence. In
one instance, “Tea Cake made her shoot at little things to give her good aim.
Pistol and shot gun and rifle… She got to the place she could shoot a hawk out
of a pine tree and not tear him up… She got to be a better shot than Tea Cake”
(131). By shooting a gun, Janie portrays herself in a masculine role because it
is deemed unnatural for a woman to hold a gun. Janie’s inner strength and
equality grow especially when she becomes better than Tea Cake; a woman
conquering a man’s job represents the growing equality between the two genders.
Through these instances, Tea Cake fulfills Janie’s which to be independent and
equal to her partner, which she lacked in her previous relationships. Tea Cake,
also, fills Janie’s pear tree and bee relationship. In her first encounter with
Tea Cake, Janie described it as that it “seemed as if she had knowing him her
entire life… She had been able to talk with him right off” (Hurston 99).  In her previous relationships, Janie lacked
proper communication with her because she was silenced from expressing her
opinions. The fact that Janie can interact in an equal, heartfelt conversation
with Tea Cake emphasizes that Tea Cake genuinely loves and cares about Janie’s
thoughts. Through the way Tea Cake treats Janie, Janie slowly starts to fall in
love with him. Due to this reason, Janie even agrees to work in the fields with
Tea Cake just so she can be around him. Even though Janie worked in her
previous relationships, she was forced; in this relationship, she voluntarily
agrees which emphasizes that she is in love with Tea Cake. After Tea Cake’s death,
Janie explains to Pheoby that “love is lak da 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” (Hurston 191). With her relationship with Tea Cake, Janie
learns that love is different for everyone, and it is not what society stereotypes
it to be; she understands that it is shaped by experiences and it is fluid like
the sea. Tea Cake gives Janie what she did not receive from her previous
relationships: love and independence. With these experiences, Janie grows more
tranquil within herself, she feels more equal and independent, and she is alive
only to please herself.

            Janie’s character progresses from a naïve,
young girl to a mature, independent woman. From her relationship with Logan,
Janie understands that love is not required in a marriage. Janie leaves Logan
for a loving relationship with Joe. Joe, however, teaches Janie that independence
and equality are the foundation of a healthy marriage. Tea Cake impacts Janie
by teaching her that genuine love is a long lasting love; he gives Janie
freedom within herself and fulfills her pear tree and bee dream. After Tea Cake’s
death, Janie understands that true love is different for everyone and empowers
herself into an independent woman. 


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