Janie grew up to find herself through each of her relationships. Her subdued lifestyle with her grandmother, her subdued and rather painful existence with her first husband Logan, her disillusionment after her initial enchantment with her second husband Jody, and her unfortunate killing of the husband she so loved, Tea Cake, all help her to recognize her for who she is and by the end of the novel, she is at peace with herself. This inner peace comes about by several twists and turns. She recognizes the various aspects of her own personality through her interactions in each of her relationships.
She begins to understand that she might be more than a young girl whose responsibility has to be transferred from the matronly care of her grandmother to matrimonial bond to a unsympathetic husband during her first marriage. She realizes that she is more than an enchanted woman who wants be more than a socially acceptable companion to an ambitious and ruthless man during her second marriage. In her last marital relationship she begins to understand and appreciate her own need to be vivacious, lively and have good times with good company without the need to be apologetic or the need to be unaware of her partner’s shortcomings.
In the death of her last husband Tea Cake at her own hand, she realizes that Life does not offer any linear solutions to the problems of relationships. Besides, she also understands that as a person she values her own individual survival is basic for her pursuit of happiness. Her confidence at having endured life’s trials and tests and having coming out not unscathed but with her individuality intact is mistaken for aloofness by her townsfolk. Finally, her revelations to her old friend Pheoby about her life finally give her a sense of fulfillment.
Janie grows up in life through her relationships and that is why she has the confidence to tell her friend that “Ah been a delegate to de big’ssociation of life. Yessuh! De Grand Lodge, de big convention of livin’ is just where Ah been”(10) Janie started off in her childhood with a blind confidence that she was entitled to everything like everyone else. She did not realize she was colored till she saw herself in a photograph and could not recognize herself. When, the rest of the children and the people of the house pointed her out in the photograph, she exclaimed
“Aw, aw! Ah’m colored! ”(p. 13) She was taught by her nanny before she was married to Logan Killicks that “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. ”(p. 20) Her completely subjugated relationship with Logan who was far older than her made her realize that perhaps she wanted more out of life. She wanted to feel a wanting in her heart and her body for a man, a true companion. That is what drove her into the arms of Jody, an ambitious, would-be politician. He was enchanting and had a manner that befitted his yet-to-acquire status.
What she did not realize was Jody wanted her to be performing a particular role in his life. There was no fun in Jody because he always looked at life as a mission to be accomplished. She had to tell Jody that he was no fun to be with “Everybody can’t be lak you, Jody. Somebody is bound tuh want tuh laugh and play”(p. 76) She was so offended by Jodie’s denying her right to be herself, which she began to realize slowly with growing years and experience, she did not even care to be polite to a dying man.
In fact Jodie’s death filled her with a sense of relief. Her realization that any relationship can come to the end of its utility and can fill a person with an unmentionable need for it to end came with Jodie’s death. \ After this growing distancing from Jody and his loftiness, which prevented Janie from living the life as a tribute to all possibility of happiness, Tea Cake entered. “Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place” (p. 122)
Though Tea Cake gave her a brief scare by running away from her with her money, he returned to confess and begin their new life. His vivaciousness and his love for life was something that Janie had always wanted. For her the sweet pain and the all encompassing love she experienced under a pear tree were realized in her years with Tea Cake. But as all good things it also had to come to an end. The fearsome hurricane that they fled, the rabid dog that bit Tea Cake and its ill-effects on his personality and character were all revelations of the uncertainties of life.
Janie had to kill Tea Cake in self defense and was acquitted in a trial consisting of all-male, all-white jury – yet another affirmation that Life had its strange ways of indicating its endless possibilities. 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. ”(3) The final place she comes back to is her hometown Eatonville. There, the act of sharing her life’s story with her friend fills her with a sense of completeness.
Her relationship with her friend when she interacts very minimally with the townsfolk, allowing them to imagine all kinds of negative things about her, is a final revelation. The narration of the story was a necessity to herself as it was for Pheoby to know the facts. Her growth as a woman and a human being through her four major relationships in life is given a chance to be framed in perspective by her relationship with her friend –somebody with whom she shares no burden of expectation Works cited Hurston, Zora Neale and Jerry Pinkney Their eyes were watching God. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991
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