Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Hero's Janie

I think that of the books we've read, Their Eyes Were Watching God is tied to the Hero's Journey the most obviously. That's all I have to say.
Just kidding... here are the stages of the monomyth as I see them.

1. Ordinary World

Janie's world with her grandomther before step 2. We don't learn too much about it, but it is probably dull and monotonous. With lots of child abuse.

2. Call to Adventure

Janie's revelation under the pear tree. She realizes what makes her truly happy: finding true love with a man.

3. Refusal of the Call

Janie's grandmother leads her away from her ideal of true love and towards her own ideal of security. Janie ends up marrying Logan Killicks and thus refusing the call. She continues to refuse the call when she marries Joe because she never loves him completely.

4. Meeting the Mentor

Janie's mentor is Tea Cake. He treats her as an equal and they truly love each other. Basically, he shows Janie the way to fulfilling her lifelong dream.

5. Crossing the Threshhold

When Janie leaves Eatonville with Tea Cake, she crosses the threshhold. She is unable to return to her old life and finally enters her dream world.
6. Tests, allies and enemies
Janie and Tea Cake encounter several tests of their love and trust. For example, Tea Cake runs away with her money and Janie is afraid he will not return. Tea Cake is also jealous of Janie at certain points, and vice versa. They meet allies who accept their poor-rich/ old-young/ dark-light marriage in the Everglades, such as Motorboat. There are also enemies who dislike their unusual marriage, such as Ms. Taylor.
7. Approach innermost cave
Janie and Tea Cake have a happy life on the Muck, but little do they know a hurricane is approaching. They do not take the advice of others like the Indians and soon are caught in the storm.
8. Ordeal
"The lake is comin'!" Janie and Tea Cake must struggle for their lives as the hurricane rages. Janie faces a rabid dog, and Tea Cake saves her. At the end of the ordeal, Janie is exhausted but alive.
9. Reward
After surviving the storm, Janie finds a new peace of mind and a state of accepting God's will. Although she doesn't truly realize it yet, she is willing and able to do God's will and accepts her life for what it is.
10. The road back
With the muck virtually destroyed, Janie and Tea Cake are stuck in the hard, judgemental world of the town. Janie realizes that her experiences in the Everglades were not meant to last.
11. Resurrection
Janie faces death again when a rabid Tea Cake comes at her with the intent to kill her. She must use her acceptance of her fate and God's will to do what is necessary: kill her true love.
12. Return with elixir
Janie brings her knowledge of God, fate, and love back to Eatonville and begins to share it with Phoeby.

The Journey to be Free of Men

I think Janie's whole journey is leading her away from men and their control over her.

The ordinary world is, of course with Nanny when she has very little knowledge of men at all especially since she never had a father. The call to adventure is the description under the pair tree, because she must first experience men and what they are like if she ever wants to really be free of their control.

The refusal of the call and the meeting of the mentor are when Nanny Janie that Logan Killicks wants to marry her and she refuses. Nanny is the mentor when she convinces Janie to marry Logan for her own protection.

When Janie marries Logan she steps over the threashold into the world of men. There is now no turning back and she must defeat them or be defeated herself.

The times she spent married to Teacake, Joe and Logan were the tests Janie had to face before she could enter the cave. These tests, especially Joe's marriage test Janie's endurance and need for freedom. Luckily she prevails and continues to seek freedom. She learned through these tests, not to trust men. She especially did not trust Teacake because, although she loved him, he had already stolen her money and beaten her up. On top of that he became sick with rabies which made him crazy. Since she survived these tests and learned not to trust men Janie was able to enter the cave and Spin the barrel of Teacakes revolver so he would have three blanks before there was a bullet to shoot her with. Luckily she did this because it helped her survive the Ordeal.

The ordeal in the story is where the hero is supposed to almost be defeted by the main bad guy but the hero should prevail and end up the victor. She certainly had an ordeal. Teacake went through all the blanks and got a real shot off before Janie managed to kill Teacake, her last husband. In doing so she finally defeated men and as a reward, becomes free of their controlling powers.

The road back is when Janie is arrested and her time spent in jail, and her ressurection is the trial. The trial was another brush with death because Janie was charged with murdering her husband. If convicted, she would have been hanged. The white women who are on Janie's side are the unexpected allies at this stage.

The return with the elixer is when Janie returns to Eatonville and the elixer is the wisdom and knowledge along with the freedom she gained throughout the journey.

Dominant Males

Throughout this novel there has been a startling similarity between the men Janie picks to marry: they have all tried to dominate her. Janie's first husband, Logan Killicks was pretty wimpy and did not really make Janie do much besides normal domestic chores and he did not really push her around that much. He was her only husband that did not try to control her and he was her only husband that she did not choose; Nanny chose him.

Her second husband, Joe Starks, was obviously dominant. He forced Janie to keep her hair up so no other men could see it, he made her work in the store and yelled at her when she made a mistake, and he would not let her talk or play checkers with the townspeople. He very obviously controlled every aspect of Janie's life and Janie, "[...] was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels" (76). All the spirit she used to possess had left her. Joe had beat it out of her.

Some time after Joe died Janie fell in love with, and married Teacake. Teacake seem nice enough, and he seems to really love her, but little things he does shows us that he, too is controlling. First he makes Janie wear blue dresses. Making her wear a certain color seems harmless enough, but soon it leads to other, more detrimental. He steals Janie's money and then disappears for a few days. Then when he returns, saying that he threw a huge party with he money, he expects to be forgiven immediately. His controlling behavior is most obvious in the everglades. Mrs. Turner had mentioned that Janie would be better suited to marry her brother instead of Teacake. Hearing this Teacake became jealous and beat Janie up. He did this, not because Janie had not done anything wrong, but because he wanted to show Mrs. Turner and her brother that he controlled her.

It is clear that throughout Janie's life she only picks men who dominate her. This may be because she was raised by her grandmother and a father figure was noticeably lacking in her life. She may be trying to fill this gap in her life with men like Joe Starks and Teacake. She is always looking for men who will look after her and control what she does.
The photo of the male silverback gorilla relates because in a pack of gorillas there is always one dominant male that controls the rest. Both Joe and Teacake are similar to the gorilla because they both need to be dominant.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Characterization of Janie Through Joe's Death

I really like Janie. She is a fantastic character and breath of fresh air from the weak, passive women that usually exist in American literature. Her strength and confidence are refreshing, but on page 84, I was reminded that she is human. After being told that Joe is dying, Janie starts to feel bad for him. She says "Poor Jody! He ought not to have to wrassle in there by himself. (84)" In this instance, Janie feels sympathy for a man who took every chance he had to suppress Janie and change her. This shows that she is capable of forgiveness and ignoring the bad sides of people. It reminds the audience that there was once a connection between the Joe and Janie in the beginning.
I think that the reason for Janie' sudden change of heart is not the result of true sympathy and forgiveness. While Janie is reflecting on death, she says "She was liable to find a feather from his [death's] wings in her yard any day now. (84)" Janie feels herself getting older and seeing Joe dying is making her own age and morality all the more real. With this, she connects to Joe and can empathize with him to an extent. Janie is also still somewhat dependent on Joe at this point. He has controlled her for the past twenty years and she is definded by everyone, including herself, as Joe's wife. Though she may resent Joe and not love him anymore, she realizes at this point that Joe's death will change the pattern of her life. However, this is ironic. Janie pities Joe and feels sadness for his death. However, Joe's death is a major turning point in her life. After he dies, Janie is set free and relishes in her revived independence.

Janie's Relationships

Throughout the whole novel, Janie is almost always in a relationship. From the very beginning, she is dependent on others starting with Granny. Granny takes care of Janie until she gets married to Logan Killicks. Even though she is not happy with him, Janie stays with him until she meets Joe. A similar thing also happens with Joe. She chooses to stay with him until he dies without saying anything that might make him leave her despite her frustration with him. Tea Cake is a little bit different, since Janie is happy, but Janie is still completely submissive to what he wants. She never opposes what he wants to do. It seems as if she is happy to have someone tell her where they are going and what they are doing so that she doesn’t have to decide for herself.

This seems to contradict Janie’s beliefs. When Joe dies, Janie feels as if she is free and says that she is happy, but she goes right into another relationship. Even though Tea Cake treated her differently than Joe did, I still think that he has just as much control over Janie as Joe had. I don’t think that Janie actually has more freedom, I just think that she is happier with Tea Cake.

Different Views on Black Women

The views on black women change from the beginning of the novel to the end. At the beginning, Granny tells Janie “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 world so fur as Ah can see” (14). This shows how Granny doesn’t think that black women have any power and freedom in the world. This is thought is understandable with her past experiences in mind.

At the end of the novel however, Janie overhears men talking and saying “Well, you know whut dey say ‘uh white man and uh nigger woman is de freest thing on earth.’ Dey do as dey please” (189). This is the exact opposite of Granny’s view. They think that black women have it easier and are allowed to do what they want to. This view is more fitting in regards to Janie. She doesn’t seem to tie herself down with anything. She even leaves her first husband because she doesn’t love him.

This difference in view could relate the person saying it. Granny has had different experiences than the white men. But it could also relate to the time and place of when it was said. Granny never got to travel around and see different places. Janie on the other hand didn’t have any obligations to tie her down.

Elixir of Love (among other things)

Janie effectively gives Phoeby (and therefore the rest of the town) "the elixir" at the end of the novel by sharing her story about empowerment and love, two things which she found in the course of her Hero Journey. When Janie finishes, Phoeby exclaims, "Lawd! Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus' listenin' tuh you, Janie. Ah ain't satisfied wid mahself no mo'" (192).

Janie introduced new ideas to Phoeby about what real love should be like, and marriage for that matter, and her experiences help Phoeby see that she can have more in life. . . which is the goal of the Return with the Elixir, the final stage in the Hero Journey.

I thought this novel really fit perfectly with the Hero Journey, and the completion of the final stage is no exception.