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Janie's Relationship in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Kallie Cunningham

Mrs, Freemon

12 CB English

18 February 2007

Janie's Relationship in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie discovers herself through her relationships with Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake. Each marriage brings her closer to that one thing in life she dreams to have, love. Janie is a woman who has lived most of her life the way other people thought she should. Her mother abandons her when she is young, and her grandmother (Nanny), raises her. Nanny has a very strict moral code, and specific ideas about freedom and marriage.

As the novel opens Janie creates a visual demonstration which lets us know that there is a large difference between her and the other women in the novel (n.p.). She becomes one with her sexuality after lying under a pear tree. Hurston stated, "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" (pg.8).This leads to her eventually kissing a young man by the name of Johnny Taylor. Nanny sees her kiss him, and says that Janie is now a woman. (pg. 12) She wants her to marry now and suggests that Janie marry Logan Killicks because he has shown an interest in Janie by always coming around their house. (pg. 13) Janie does not want to marry Logan because she feels he's unattractive and he does not resemble her image of a blooming pear tree. With this being said, Nanny leads Janie to believe no matter who she marrys, she will eventually learn to love them (Kubitschek 23). Janie hated Nanny because of the choices she made for her (pg.85). Thereafter, Nanny arranged for Janie to marry Logan Killicks. She felt that getting married to him will protect Janie from the burdens of being a black woman. Janie did nothing but obey.

Hurston wrote, "The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree, but Janie didn't

know how to tell Nanny that. She merely hunched over and pouted at the floor" (Hurston 13). Logan Killicks couldn't give this type of love that Janie is eagered to find. He might not have loved her at all. To him, Janie was just another working put of hands. He cared for her almost like another man. He was thoughtless of her feelings, her hopes, and her objectives. Janie was toiled hard by Logan. He made her do all sorts of things that only men ought to have to have done. He was even leaving to make her cultivate the fields-a job that needs a significant amount of power: power that Janie didn't have. Janie protested that nothing beautiful was ever said. She had no love with Logan Killicks. That is why she left him for a man named Joe Starks. He proved much prospective to give the type of love she was looking for. Joe reminded Janie that she was young and beautiful. He also impressed her with his big thinking whereas Logan only thought in terms of his sixty acres of land. Janie said to Logan, "You don't take nothin' to count but sow-belly and corn bread," illustrating her discontent with his lack of vision of the horizon (30). She ran out to the gate to meet Joe in hopes that he would be the "bee for her bloom"(32). However, she did not realize Joe did not represent that "sun-up and pollen and blooming trees"either, which were important things to Janie as they represent true love.

The matrimony between Joe Starks and Janie is built on money as well as security. With this being said, she leaves Logan Killicks for him because he promises her everything. Joe promises Janie that he will treat her like a queen. She tells him how Logan forced her to do yard work, but Joe explains to her that with him, she will never have to do anything unless she wants to. The thought of living the "good life" excites Janie.Joe is a wealthy young man who sweeps her off her feet into a new atmosphere. They start a new life in a town called Eatonville. Since her husband is a prominent figure in Eatonville, he is elected mayor. She is happy to be the mayor's wife and thinks that she is in love. Jody is in charge of the whole town and advises her to stay at home while he takes care of everything else. Joe's confidence makes her feel secure. However, Joe's controlling nature toward Janie is revealed when she is asked to speak at his inauguration. Joe prevents this by "taking the floor himself," stating, "mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'. ... She's uh woman and her place is in de home" (p. 51). Just as Joe Starks "cows the town" (p. 55), forcing them to "bow down to him" (p. 59), he dominates his wife. Joe will not allow her to wear her hair long, instead making "her keep her head tied up lak some ole 'oman" so that none of the other men "might touch it round dat store" (p. 59). He keeps her out of the lively conversations and checkers matches held on their store's front porch (p. 82).

As Janie moves from one bad relationship to another, her voice strengthens and she becomes a more mature individual. In the beginning of the novel, she thinks that marriage constitutes love and that spouses loving each other was a given. (Hurston 20) In addition, she also believed

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