In this love story written by Zora Neale Hurston, we find out that the main character, Janie saw her life as a great tree filled with many trials and tribulations. “Their eyes were watching God” was written from a woman’s point of view to tell the story of a woman desperately searching for true love and fulfilment. Janie Crawford grew up with her grandmother who forced her to marry at the age of seventeen to ensure a better life for herself. Logan Killicks was an established potato farmer and he was more than twice Janie’s age. He used her for slavery but Janie refused to accept this lifestyle.
One day she met a tall handsome man name Joe Starks and ran off with him to Florida. There he established and became the mayor of a small town called Eatonville. This relationship was one of possession and power and Janie was denied any interaction with others in the town. Janie was his trophy wife; she was only allowed to work in their store until Joe became sick and died. Janie then met and fell in love with a young man called Tea Cake. He loved her and took her on picnics, hunting, fishing and dancing. Both, Tea Cake and Janie worked together on the “muck”, on a field picking crops.
On a tragic trip to the Everglades, a hurricane came and Tea Cake was bitten by a wild dog while trying to save Janie and contracted rabies. In his last few months, Tea Cake began to lose his mind and tried to kill Janie so she was forced to take his life. No one could replace Tea Cake, so after his death Janie returned to Eatonville to work in her store. When she returned, people assumed that Tea Cake had run off with her money, but Janie did not care because finally she had experienced true love. The purpose of this book is to tell the story of a woman’s search for true love.
In her pursuit of love, she experienced relationships based on confinement and possession, persons who only saw her as a slave and a trophy wife. All Janie ever wanted was someone to love and appreciate her as an individual and as an equal. Eventually, this was achieved when she met Tea Cake. The writer uses many techniques to engage and capture her audience’s interest on this journey of true love, independence and fulfilment. Throughout the novel, the writer uses an ironic tone. After Janie’s first relationship as a slave she found herself in another controlling relationship with Joe Starks unintentionally. Although Tea Cake allowed
Janie her freedom at first once competition presented itself he took on a possessive and controlling role also, “Tea Cake had a brainstorm. Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behaviour justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. ” It was also ironic that at Joe’s funeral she was not sad or hopeless as the wife would normally be, but instead she felt strong and free, “Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging well below her waist”.
Hurston also used dialect to make the story and characters more real to the reader. Words such as ‘wuz’, ‘dat’, ‘mah’, ‘dey’ and wid showed the culture and spirit of the characters and made the story believable. Once I was comfortable reading the dialect, it was easy relating to the characters as their emotions were evident based on their unique expressions. Hurston’s use of figurative language was remarkable where she brilliantly used a metaphor to describe Janie’s life. “Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered. Things enjoyed, things done and undone.
Dawn and doom was in the branches. These words describe the ups and downs in Janie’s life, the things she did and those she wished she could have done. Dawn represents the new things she experienced and the brighter days that she had to look toward and doom were the trials and sad times in life that she faced. This created a summary of everything Janie faced in life for the reader and was effective in relating to the character and her feelings. Hurston used imagery to characterize and distinguish between men and women in. She compares the dreams of men to ships. She says “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. ” She then goes on to say “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. She believes men and women dream differently. Men set their sights on things they will most likely never accomplish. If they fail, they pack their bags and forget about it, they don’t keep striving to achieve it.
Women on the other hand have their sights set on dreams that are realistic and they don’t just wait for their ship to dock, they “act and do things accordingly”. This idea is represented with all three relationships Janie has in the novel. First she marries Logan, with the hope that her dreams of love and prosperity can be fulfilled. Unfortunately this did not work. Then Janine marries Joe Starks, but feels no real love for him. Then Janne meets Tea Cake. He fulfills her dream of love, and is the only person that makes that dream come true for her. The most prevalent theme presented in the novel is love and friendship.
Tea Cake loves Janie and wants her to be happy. He’s the only one who gives Janie the freedom to be who she is, not who someone wanted her to be. All of Janie’s life she was hidden behind a mask that only was taken off with Tea Cake’s love. “He drifted into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place. ” After Tea Cake’s death, Janie did not feel alone. Tea Cake had given so much love to Janie that would last her whole life. “He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall.
Tea Cake’s death freed Janie for her searching was finally complete. The writer also uses the flashback method, she begins the story with the end of Janie’s journey, when she is back at home and then tells her friend Phoebe her life’s story leading up to her returning home. This was an effective technique because it showed the process and struggle some endure during the pursuit of happiness. Overall the writer was effective in achieving her purpose. Hurston gives her readers the tools to understanding Janie’s motivation with meaningful patterns of metaphors and symbols that deliberately guide readers through Janie’s experiences.
The novel invoked many feelings, such as sympathy and concern for the way she was treated, and sadness and struggle this intelligent beautiful woman had to endure. In short, Janie struggles, Janie submits, Janie silences herself, but Janie grows. By the end of the story, I, as a reader, am her best friend Pheoby, sitting on that porch with her and listening her to tale. I understand her insecurities, I feel her pain, and I am able to share in her joy as she was able to experience true happiness and find fulfilment.
This novel is so relevant to society because it sends a strong message to women who are still victims of battered relationships, women who feel weak and are struggling to make a failing situation work. This novel serves as empowerment, showing us that we should not be afraid to pursue other relationships if the current one doesn’t bring the happiness that is desired. It teaches that life is a journey filled with ups and downs, but it is up to us to determine our happiness as Janie did. Also it cautions us to be careful with whom we choose to love.
Courtney from Study Moose
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