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.

Response to "Nature"

Kayleigh, I found your post on Nature to be really interesting. I also wanted to add that Hurston emphasizes the wisdom of Nature and the people that watch nature. For example, it is the Indian tribe that realizes that a hurricane is imminent. As we all know, Native Americans are extremely close to nature - they survive off of it and use it in so many aspects of their lives. So, instinct tells us that we should listen to these "nature experts" if they warn us about a dangerous natural disaster. But no. The characters in the novel act just like greedy capitalists who think nothing could harm them. Tea Cake even goes on to say that if the Indians were always right, then why would they have lost all of their land? If Tea Cake had listened to the Seminoles, he would not have gotten bit by the rabid dog and he would still be alive. Hurston is really emphasizing the importance of the people that are in complete harmony with nature, like the Indians.

This picture was also quite...interesting. It is how I imagined Tea Cake to look at times when he was angry (after he got infected).

Janie and Society

Throughout the novel, Janie plays a role in different societies. I think that it is interesting that she takes on unique roles in the different societies that she is in. In her original home, where she lives with Nanny and eventually marries Logan Killicks, she is an ordinary woman and does not really stand out from society. Then when she moves to Eatonville with Joe Starks she takes on a completely different role. Joe Starks becomes the mayor of the new city with most of the power. Because Janie is his wife, she is not treated like all of the other women in the town. She is seen as a prominent figure rather than an ordinary person. While most of the women who live in Eatonville get to discuss with the porch sitters, Janie is forced to stay in the store. Also, Janie is not allowed to go to the mule’s burial because she is the mayor’s wife. This is just another example of how Janie is treated differently than everyone else in the community. Janie is always slightly removed from society, which I think leads to inner conflict. After living at Eatonville, Janie moves to the Everglades with Tea Cake. At first Tea Cake does not want Janie to work in the muck, and Janie is once again estranged from society. While most of the women are working, Janie is home. As the novel goes on Janie is asked to work in the muck and interacts with society more. I think this interaction allows Janie to feel more freedom and to get her ideas across better.
I think that Janie is conflicted over the idea of society. While at times she seems to enjoy society, other times she seems to be very much against it. This may be because of her independent personality. Also, at times she seems to care what others think about her, but other times she does not. As the novel concludes, I think that Janie realizes that she does not care what others think about her because she understands herself. As she passes the porch sitters back in Eatonville she does not explain anything to them or care about how they may judge her. At the beginning of the novel, she is trying to discover herself and relies somewhat on society to help her but as the novel concludes she relies more on herself. I am not sure if Janie's interaction with society was harmful or helpful in reaching her goal to understand herself. I think that it could probabaly be both.

Reaction to Caroline's Post

Caroline, awesome song and great connection to the novel. The only thing is I feel like in a way Janie did waste a huge part of her life. She did what others wanted her to do for long. First she married Logan because her grandmother told her too. Then she married Jody and stayed in a loveless marriage, one in which she was controlled by her husband. She did not get out of the marriage on her own accord. It was not until Jody was on his death bed that she finally uttered those last powerful words and left. It was late in life, therefore, that Janie found Tea Cake and with it came true happiness.

So is this good? To spend the majority of our lives looking for happiness? To me that is a waste. I feel like I can learn from Janie's mistake. Independence is something that is extremely important to me. Now it means me having a car and a job, but later in life I must remember that it also means doing what makes me happy. I don't want to waste my life, as Caroline also said in her post. That is a fear of mine as well. I think that if we are conscience of this fear, however, that we will not become like Janie. This is the main lesson I learned from the novel.

Perfectly Imperfect

As I write this post, I will be ruining the perfect number of 111 blog posts that have been posted thus far. My hesitation to ruin this perfectly palindromic number made me realize that Zora Neal Hurston was a big fan of using imperfections in her novel in order to stress ideals. Janie's situation throughout the novel always seems like she has almost everything. However she seems to be missing that final link, that last petal of the flower to make it an even 10. For example, her original relationship with Logan Killicks obviously could have been much better even though her physical comforts were all easily met. With Joe Starks it was much the same where she was very well provided for and lived very comfortably but was missing that last thing that would have made her life perfect. Even with Tea Cake she is lacking that final intangible facet of love that would have made her life perfect. The difference is with Tea Cake she feels that she can achieve this last piece to perfection although Tea Cake dies before she can accomplish this.

This lack of perfection is important to Hurston's novel in that it creates a constant struggle for Janie to deal with underneath the obvious conflicts that occur between her and her various partners. Hurston utilizes this tactic to keep the reader interested in the story while nothing is really going on. It is impressive how just when I would be about to put the book down in disinterest, Hurston would remind me just how much improvement needed to happen with Janie's situation as a new problem arose. Hurston perfectly balances the inconsistencies and imprefections that happen in Janie's life with her otherwise comfortable, easy living.

Janie's Fate: Response to Class Discussion and Peer Post

{ I found a picture that I thought went along with this pretty well because it is a person jumping away from a bible, but for some reason it isn't showing up so I just included the link below:}

I wanted to expand on what we ended class talking about - Janie's independence in relation to God - and since Amanda already did a post about this, mine is sort of a rebuttal.

I'm in agreement with Tien that Janie is not complacent in her view of fate and God. This completely contradicts her journey to independence which she wants to share with Pheoby and does not reflect the changes Janie undergoes after shooting Tea Cake. One of the first points I want to clarify about Tien and my argument (I think he agrees with me on this because we talked about it at the end of class, but just to be sure I'll put a disclaimer that he might not) is that Janie does not resign herself to or accept the fate that God sets, what she accepts is Time and Death, the two entities Hurston personifies in this novel.

Referencing Amanda's first quote "Did He mean to do this thing to Tea Cake and her? It wasn't anything she could fight. She could only ache and wait. Maybe it was some big tease and when He saw it had gone far enough He'd give her a sign. She looked hard up there for something to move for a sign. . . Her arms went up in desperate supplication for a minute. It wasn't exactly pleading, it was asking questions. . . God would do less than He had in His heart" (178) I took it to have a different meaning. Janie does say that "It wasn't anything she could fight," and that can be taken to mean she couldn't fight God and the fate He set for her. However I believe the thing she can't fight is Tea Cake's death, not God. This is because Janie no longer has an opinion that God is benevolent or even indiscriminant becuase he simple isn't watching. She says "God would do less than He had in His heart", showing that Janie doesn't have much faith in God anymore in his affects on her daily life.

Janie's loss of belief is also shown in another quote; "They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God." Everyone is watching God, waiting for His recognition of their lives, good or bad. However it also says that what they are really watching is the dark. God doesn't have an omnipotent presence in Janie's life and she foreshadows this change in the above quote and elsewhere because every time Janie appeals to God, or watches God, she has no response and so she turns away from God.

This change manifests itself in her independence because Janie will not accept the fate of a god who ignores her life. Instead Janie is affected by Time, who mocks men's dreams to death (opening paragraph), and Death who had "been standing there before there was a where or a when or a then" (84). Throughout the novel, both time and death play an important role. Janie, Tea Cake, Joe Starks, and Logan Killicks are all criticized for their age in various ways. Janie is too young or old for a man; Tea Cake is too young for Janie and is untrustworthy; Joe's age is brought to light by Janie and he is demoralized by it; Logan is too old to keep Janie's attention. Also the idea of how time is spent - Janie feels like a shell when she spends her years in Eatonville with Joe Starks, but when Tea Cake shows her how to make the most of a moment, Janie feels fulfilled. Death is also a major part of Janie's life because Joe's death and Nanny's death both release some of the chains holding Janie back, while Tea Cake's death is the ultimate turning point in Janie's finding independence as she is able to kill the man she loves and relies upon because it will be better for him and she knows that she can get on without him.

I also wanted to address the last quote in Amanda's post; "Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about living for theyselves." (192) Amanda used this to show that faith is necessary for self-discovery, but it can also be construed in the opposite direction. I think it is very important to notice that Janie separates the journey one makes to God, and the process of learning to live. To me, this shows Janie's separation of life and self-discovery from God. Janie says that a person needs to go to God, and then after do they learn how to live. In my opinion, at this point Janie has gone to God, realized that He does not control her life, and then learned to live in accordance. She recognizes the power of spirituality and so Janie considers God an important part of an individuals journey, but I believe that Janie also wants Pheoby, and others, to experience what she did in order for them to separate God's fate - which is a biblical and unproven entity - and the fate brought about by time and death, which is a tangible occurrence. The beginning and the end of this novel are told during the same time (Janie's present) and are told by Janie when she has completed her self-discovery. Yet the first mention of fate or a deity is not God, it is time. This furthers my belief that Janie does not consider herself humbled to God's will and accepting of whatever fate He has set for her, but merely living under the constraints of Time and Death, which are inescapable.


Nature plays a huge role in this Novel. Janie grew up in a civilized town and she found no freedom there. When She and Joe first moved to Eatonville it was rough and uncivilized. This town was closer to nature. In the beginning of their marriage Janie is happier and while Joe is busy she has freedom. However when the town is settled and a store built she has to tie up her hair and work in the store. Then Janie Marries Tea Cake and they move to Jacksonville. In Jacksonville Tea Cakes has to leave Janie alone at the house when he goes out to work and gamble. She has no freedom there. Then they move to the glades. The glades is as close to nature as Janie gets. She is allowed to act independently here and she plays games, dances, and even works like a man. Here the reader sees her real spirit. However her happiness does not continue because Nature ( the hurricane) chases Janie and Tea Cake out of the glades and back into civilization. Through this book Hurston shows that if you are closer to nature you will be free.

Response to Dani's Post

I agree with you Dani in the idea that the hurricane that occurred towards the end of the novel has numerous symbolic aspects. I really liked the idea about it representing an angry god; it’s kind of like what Tien talked about today when bringing up the speech Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I also think there are some ideas that the hurricane symbolizes.

For one thing, I think that the hurricane could represent a new start. Water in many stories can represent many different things from purity to freedom but I think here is represents a new beginning for Janie on her journey to find herself. Especially since Janie is forced to find a new path after the storm and the loss of Teacake. When a hurricane hits a certain area, that area needs to rebuild their lives because of the destruction. In doing so it is forcing these people to restart their lives in many cases.

From a religious perspective, the hurricane reminded me of two well-known biblical stories. One of them is Noah’s ark where the water flooded the earth in order to get rid of all the evil in the world and the other being Moses who was able to get himself and his people to safety by parting the sea and then closing it on their enemies. I am pretty sure that there are other references to water being pure and saving the good from the evil in the bible but I can’t think of any other references off the top of my head.
 I wonder if Hurston is trying to prove that this actually did happen, in that all the evil was taken out of Janie’s life after the storm or if she means that it wasn’t that and instead there was still more evil left even after the storm. Is there a further message to be found here or am I once again reading into it too much?

Debating Janie's Independence

I know I wasted a lot of time in class today squabbling over Janie's position at the end of the novel, but I figured I might as well rant some more in my last blog post.

What is Janie's position at the end of the novel? Let me boil down my personal opinion on this topic.

I believe that by the end of novel, Janie has accomplished two major goals.
a) Janie has come to terms with the uncontrollable nature of life
b) By realizing this fact, Janie has essentially taken control of her fate.

A) I believe that one thing everyone can agree upon is the fact that fate is often unfavorable to the individual. Similar to what we discussed about an indiscriminate God, fate is likewise uncaring. Fate is not concerned with the individual or the past. Fate can bring both good and bad, but one thing it cannot do is distinguish who shall receive what. The world is not just; good things don't necessarily happen to good people and bad things don't necessarily happen to bad people. Fate will throw whatever is available in your direction regardless. We can see this idea manifested multiple times throughout Janie's journey. Janie's journey for love is riddled with both good and bad. Nanny refuses to allow Janie to see Johnny Taylor, her first passionate love; Janie is forced to marry Logan Killicks, an unattractive "stump"; she meets a promising man, Jody Starks, who turns out to be a terrible egotistical husband. But fate does throw her a bone. Janie meets Tea Cake and she is able to marry him. Janie is able to live her dream of perfect love for a transient moment, but as we all know, good things cannot last and fate once again turns against Janie. She experiences a devestating hurricane, and is eventually forced to kill Tea Cake.

By the end of her experiences, Janie has definitely learned that life is both beautiful and terrible; beautiful in the sense that perfect love exists and waits for one to find, but also terrible because this beauty can be ripped unmercifully from one's hands. God has both given and taken love from Janie's life. The notion that the one thing that Janie's life depended on, love, could be given and taken so easily is disheartening to the furthest extent. At the end of the novel, Janie has learned this unfortunate truth of life and has accepted it as the truth.

At this point, Janie could have taken two very different roads. On one end, Janie allow her life to be swept by the tides of fate; what is the point of life when one's dreams hang on a thin thread that can be cut at any moment? Essentially, Janie could have given her life to fate, indifferent to what God may throw because in the end, it doesn't change anything. Something terrible today will be fine tomorrow and something amazing today will be gone even sooner.

But this is not the road that Janie takes. She does not give her life up to fate.

B) If anything I believe that Janie has done the opposite. She still understands that fate can change life, but she does not let this foster a sense of disenfranchisement. I believe that Janie has learned through her journey that even though fate may control your life, it cannot control your self and spirit. Dreams are a creation of the human mind and spririt. Dreams are separate from the physical world. They are metaphysical; dreams transcend the limitations of reality because they are borne by the human soul. Therefore dreams fall outside the jurisdiction of fate. Fate can control life around you but it cannot control your dreams. Certainly physical circumstances controlled by fate can hinder the acquisition of human aspirations, but they cannot destroy them. When it comes to dreams, the only true God or decider of the fate of dreams is the individual. The individual can let dreams sail forever on the horizon until they drift off past the sunset, but the individual can also reach out and grasp their dreams. They just need to believe and make fate work towards their goal. Fate provides the circumstances, the individual shapes circumstances towards their goal.
This is what I believe has become Janie's mantra by the end of the novel. She has accepted fate for what it is, but refuses to let it define the outcome of her dreams. Instead, she realizes that she must obtain her happiness despite the inconveniences of fate.
Thus Janie is able to completely control her life for the first time in the novel. Janie announces her true independence from fate and society in a few profound quotes a t the end of the novel.
(I know Amanda showed me this quote to refute this position but I found it extremely helpful to prove this position)

"Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves." (192).

I have basically outlined these two tasks that Janie has stated in parts a and b of this blog. Part one, Janie goes to God. She accepts his random, indiscriminate ways. She realizes the little control over her physical world. Part two, she sees God's methods and still lives independently from his workings. She "finds out about livin' fuh" herself. She understands the uncontrollable nature of the world, but comes to realize that she can still live for herself spiritually. She does not let fate reject her dreams, instead she realizes she can still live for them, despite fate's circumstances.

"She pulled in the great horizon like a great fish-net" (193)

This is probably the most obvious support of my position. We all probably agree by now that the horizon represents dreams. In this quote, Janie figuratively "pulls" her dreams to her and wraps them around her shoulders. No one influences this action but herself. If we are to look at the opening metaphors in the beginning of the novel, we find that the "tide" may symbolize fate, sometimes pulling in men's dreams randomly and other times leaving them out of mens' reach. This description directly opposes the notion of tide and fate. In this case, Janie does not wait for the tide to bring in her dream, she does not let the tide taunt her by keeping her dreams in sight but out of reach. No, in this case Janie defies fate (the tide) and grasps her fate; unwilling to wait for it to do it for her. Once again Janie's newfound independence from the working of fate is evidenced by Hurston's writing.

Tea Cake's Fate and God?

"Ah'm never tuh fuhgit dem eyes. He wuzn't nothin' all over but pure hate," (167). What exactly is God's reason for condemning Janie to the wrath of a hurricane and the transformation of her husband to a hate consumed animal? Every decision made by Tea Cake has led him to the path of a shorter life. At the beginning of the hurricane Motor Boat urged Tea Cake to stay in the house and sleep the storm out. Tea Cake refused and dragged Janie with him. Unfortunately Janie gets caught up in the wave with a rabid dog and Tea Cake dives in to save her getting bit. Afterwards Janie pleaded that Tea Cake receive medical attention. However he refused, casting the injury off as a temporary annoyance. Why the stubbornness Tea Cake? He seems to be avoiding something all the time. He also refuses to go to a hospital. Is this because he is afraid of the white man? Perhaps he just distrusts them. Whatever the case may be, his decisions led him to the sad ending of his life, shot by his own true love.
"Saw the ferocious look in his eyes and went mad with fear as she had done in the water that time," (184). Like the rabid dog Tea Cake has lost all sensibility and all that remains is the urge to kill. I can only think Hurston intended Tea Cake to die this way and deny the happy ending for Janie for a reason. In both situations Janie is the one being targeted by the rabid inhabitants. Janie is seeing the hatred that is in God. The hurricane represents an expurgation of rural Florida. Tea Cake is the last to be cleansed when he dies and all returns to normalcy. Janie returns to Eatonville a refined woman. I think the relationship between Janie and Tea Cake fails, even after two other marriages, because she is not supposed to spend the rest of her life with them but to learn something. I think she learns more about love and experiences the dream she dreamt under the pear tree. God has guided her on the journey and I almost feel like it was all a planned destiny. Like we discussed in class, Janie does accept this and that she is in the hands of God which is why she accepts Tea Cake's death and is able to live peacefully.

Conflict with the Big Guy

"Somewhere up there beyond blue ether's bosom sat He. Was He noticing what was going on around here? He must be because He knew everything. Did He mean to do this thing to Tea Cake and her? It wasn't anything she could fight. She could only ache and wait. Maybe it was some big tease and when He saw it had gone far enough He'd give her a sign. She looked hard up there for something to move for a sign. . . Her arms went up in desperate supplication for a minute. It wasn't exactly pleading, it was asking questions. . . God would do less than He had in His heart" (178).

"They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God" (160).

I decided to find some evidence to support the idea from class today that Janie views herself as powerless in the hands of God and fate. In the first example, she realizes that Tea Cake is going to die, and yet she doesn't accuse God of being cruel or lash out at Him in any way, but rather says in resignation that "it wasn't anything she could fight". While Janie is conflicted with God and her own faith for taking Tea Cake from her, her reaction doesn't move her to action. I think God is a sort of comfort for Janie. She can be angry and sad for the loss of her husband, but she can be at peace knowing it was his fate.

In the second example, the title is finally referenced in describing the scene during the storm. Similarly, Janie and Tea Cake are completely in the hands of God, their lives to be determined by His will. They await their fate calmly and without fight. Of course later on, they decide to move to higher land, but in that instant, they could have very easily lost their lives to the violent winds, or the wrath of God.

Janie isn't dependent on God at any time in the novel, but throughout her journey she questions Him, and in that way she learns about herself and how to become independent in a world she cannot control. In the closing chapter, she tells Pheoby that everyone has "got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about living for theyselves" (192). I interpreted this as Janie putting the two things hand in hand. I think a prevalent theme here is that in the quest for self-discovery, one has to have an understanding of a higher power, or faith, in order to truly understand one's life and oneself. So while Janie is much more independent than she was at the start of the novel, she isn't independent of God. Rather, her life is controlled by Him and she can choose where she goes in life, but not what happens to her.

Crossover Conflict

In TEWWG, Janie kills Tea Cake when he is plagued with rabies. After his death, Janie is free from marital complications and finally liberated. In Macbeth, Duncan is murdered by Macbeth so he can assure his place as king, for his own gains. While both had their reasons for murder, they both experienced the guilt for killing loved ones.

[ *There is growing external and internal conflict in Macbeth now. Internally both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are having struggles. Macbeth is starting to have hallucinations of guilt over what he has done, he sees the ghost of Banquo and talks to it. He made a choice but he has not accepted the consequences. Lady Macbeth is the same way too, and she has to deal with the consequences of her actions that she now regrets and harlot like Janie Starks. Also in Their Eyes Were Watching God Janie is discriminated against by society* the same way that Macbeth is felt towards by Duncan's sons and McDuff. McDuff and Duncan's heirs plan to take out Macbeth the same way he did to Duncan and the same way Janie did to Teacake. ]

*contributed by Devin McNeil for web blog post

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Getting Old

So one of the major focuses of chapter 7 is the idea of getting older. As Janie ages and is now in her mid thirties, she starts to realize that "thirty-five is twice seventeen and nothing was the same at all. (76)" Janie's youthful spirit has been worn down with age and she no longer feels happy. This is a reminder of the passion and eagerness that comes with youth. Janie's tone in chapter 7 almost implies that all sense or point of life has left her as she ages. Joe is also aging and "Joe wasn't so young as he used to be. There was something dead about him. (77)" How depressing is that? Once you start getting old, you begin to die inside. But, we do see later on that Janie gets a revival. But this chapter is a key down point in Janie's story.
Later on, some of the other women tease Janie about her age. Janie is starting to realize that she is not so young anymore and that she doesn't have her whole life ahead of her. Her unhappiness is setting in and becoming all the more real.
For me, the idea of getting old is terrifying. As a teenager, I hate thinking about being an adult and losing my youth. As college and the "real world" come closer and closer, getting old gets scarier and scarier. It's not even the age part. We are all going to get old and die someday. End of story. I don't like it, but I kinda have to accept it. It's the dying inside part that scares me. It's that I am afraid of falling into a mundane, pointless life devoid of any sort of passion. Janie is a good example of not letting this happen. We see later on that in no way does she let herself die inside, even though her life seems to have lost it's zeal. She keeps that spark alive.
John Mayer frequently muses with the idea of getting older and his album Continuum is pretty much devoted to songs about getting older. One song in particular, "Stop This Train" is reflective of Janie's aging process. She realizes that she is getting older and that she can't go back. The song explores the idea that you can't go back. You are are going to get older, but this song reminds you that it's okay. Mayer says:

Once in awhile, when it's good
It'll feel like it should
And they're all still around
And you're still safe and sound
And you don't miss a thing

Getting older doesn't mean that life is just going on a downward spiral. Life gets richer and even though the past might seem like it was amazing, you just have to move on and enjoy what you have.

Hurston’s Background: Racism

While Janie and Tea Cake are running away from the storm, they encounter a mad dog. As Tea Cake is helping Janie, he is bitten by the dog and gets rabies. Both Janie and Tea Cake fail to realize that the dog has rabies, so Tea Cake becomes insane and Janie has to kill him. Although this is a tragic result, if Tea Cake or Janie had visited a doctor or hospital earlier, it probably could have been avoided.

I feel that Tea Cake’s death by rabies ties to Zora Neale Hurston’s view of racism. Whites were still considered “superior” in Florida where Tea Cake and Janie live. This can be seen when Tea Cake is helping bury the dead and the guards tell him and the other workers that whites will be buried in boxes but blacks will simply be put in a mass grave. However, Doctor Simmons, the person who tries to help Tea Cake, is a white man. Despite the difference in skin color, he clearly cares about Tea Cake’s condition. This matches with Hurston’s tendency to gloss over racial inequities. Tea Cake and Janie are treated differently by various white men, which indicates that the lives of blacks had a balance of good and bad.

The way Tea Cake dies seems to match Hurston’s determination not to act like a “victimized black” (Holmes). Tea Cake’s death is partially his own fault because he chooses not to see a doctor. I am not sure how common rabies was back then, but Doctor Simmons is able to recognize the symptoms right away, and he has been around the muck for a long time. Although Doctor Simmons tries to help Tea Cake, the medicine arrives too late. It is important to note that the people in Palm Beach (most likely whites like Doctor Simmons) are willing to send the medicine to Tea Cake. In essence, the person who is most responsible for Tea Cake’s death is Tea Cake himself. Tea Cake cannot be considered a vulnerable black person who died because of an unsympathetic white society because of this fact. If Tea Cake had been killed by the white guards for not helping to take care of the dead, Hurston might have been indicating the mistreatment that blacks felt during her time period. Since Tea Cake dies of rabies, Hurston is saying that black people should not feel like victims in an unfriendly world.

At the end of the book, Janie returns to Eatonville. Although Tea Cake has died, she is peaceful and content with her life. This is a contrast to the “sobbing school of Negrohood” (Holmes) that Hurston despised. Despite having lived in a slightly racist environment, Hurston believed that blacks should be able to live satisfactory lives (during her time period) without claiming that they felt like they had been wronged.

(In terms of the picture, I think that Hurston would have liked to see blacks at an equal footing as whites. Instead of feeling victimized, the blacks would foster their own pride so that it would match that of the other race.)

Response to Adam's Post

Thanks Adam, for pointing out that we should re-read the first chapter. I remember that when I first read the first chapter, it had little meaning to me because I was not familiar with the characters. I did not know Janie very well and I had no idea who Tea Cake was. When I went back and read the first chapter again at your suggestion, it made a lot more sense to me. I knew that Janie was back in Eatonville after returning from the Muck. I knew that Tea Cake was a loving husband who did not leave Janie for a younger woman, as was suggested by the porch sitters. I was able to recognize the porch sitters as the gossips of Eatonville, who had known Janie when she was Mrs. Mayor of Eatonville. I completely agree with Adam, that reading the first chapter again was like reading a whole new chapter to the book. It is interesting how Zora Neale Hurston wrote the end of the book as the first chapter and the rest of the book as a flashback. I got so lost in the story, that I forgot that Janie was recounting her adventures outside of Eatonville to Phoeby. In re-reading the first chapter, it summed up the entire book, and provided a conclusion that chapter 20 did not. Good job Adam, for discovering the key to the end of the novel.

I can imagine it all

Throughout the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses many literary devices. One in particular that she uses often is imagery. Hurston uses imagery to really give the reader an idea of what the scenery looks like and to also give them a chance to use their imagination to paint a picture in their mind of the event.

An example of Hurston using imagery is during the hurricane. Hurston writes "through the screaming they heard things crashing and things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity. A baby rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor and squatted off there in the shadows against the wall, seeming to know that nobody wanted its flesh at such a time. And the lake got madder and madder with only its dikes between them and him" (159). This quotation is a use of imagery because you can see the baby rabbit terrified and you can almost hear the swishing sounds of things getting tossed around outside. This imagery kind of sets up a scary tone. It also kind of explains the fright that the characters, Janie, Tea Cake, and Motor Boat are experiencing. I can just picture them all sitting inside in complete quietness trembling with terror, just like the little rabbit.

Another example of imagery being used in the novel was after the hurricane. The devastation of the hurricane was explained through the "trucks lined with drag kept rolling in from the 'Glades and other outlying parts, each with its load of twenty-five bodies. Some bodies fully dressed , some naked and some in all degrees of dishevelment. Some bodies with calm faces and satisfied hands. Some dead with fighting faces and eyes flung wide open in wonder" (170). This quotation is more of a rather lurid piece of imagery, yet it still paints that vivid image in your mind of all those dead people. This piece of imagery kind of sets a sad and sullen tone to this chapter because it shows the devastation so clearly.

To conclude to my examples of imagery is also when Hurston was discussing the hurricane. Hurston says "that the wind and the water has given life to lots of things that folks think of as dead and given death to so much that had been living things. Water everywhere. Stray fish swimming in the yard. Three inches more and the water would be in the house" (160). One can almost imagine going outside of their home and the environment is turned upside down and is completely bizarre. One can also feel the emotions of fright, confusion, and anxiousness rush over them after reading imagery such as this. It changes Tea Cake because at one minute he is all tough saying that they were staying. Then the next minute he is scared and he is completely contradicting himself. Overall, I realized that there were many examples of imagery in this novel and they really put the novel to life for the reader.

A Taste of what She Missed

Janie, having missed out on so many childhood necessities such as parents, a real relationship and friends, spends part of her life with three different men to get a taste of what she missed. Logan, the first man was a taste of marriage and the teachings of love. The question unanswered was "does love come as a package with marriage?" Janie wanted to experience love and she finally accepted her grandmother's wish to marry Logan. Janie got a taste of what marriage life is and quickly learned it is not one worth living with a man she cannot love. Overwhelmed by her unhappiness, Janie leaves him to pursue other opportunities to experience life.
Joe Starks, the next man in line, proves to be a charming man, someone Janie could easily fall in love with because of his gentleman-like manner. Janie chose to leave with Joe because she wanted to feel the rush of a spontaneous decision and awe society with her perfidy to Logan. Joe Starks became a symbol of responsibility and consumption of one's work. Joe place Janie in fetters to keep her from mingling with the community and focus her attention on maintaining the shop. Janie learned from this experience that she does not want to be restricted and has been held back by her marriage from doing the things that interest her. Janie almost welcomes Joe's death as a symbol of freedom once again from the ball and chain of marriage.
Last but not least, we have Tea Cake. He is a romantic who encourages Janie to be herself. Just the opposite of Joe, Tea Cake serves as a foil and Janie immediately loves the change and falls in love with Tea Cake. Janie's life with Tea Cake is happy because she partakes on everything Tea Cake does if she chooses to do so. No longer is she judged by her actions nor is she refrained from doing as she pleases. A man who promises to provide for her even though she is bountiful makes Janie even happier because there exists a man who is not selfish and disproves every rumor that denounces Tea Cake as a thief trying to steal a widow's money.
Each man is different than the other. Perhaps they are not the one's who she meant to spend the rest of her life with but a preview of what life can be with different men. These experiences prepared her for life, something she lacked as a child. Now she can choose to live with a man or not but either way she has gained valuable experience and can for certain make the right choices. Perhaps all these men and their character helped Janie learn "what it is to look for in a man".

Response to Kirsten's Blog Post

Though I definitely agree with Kirsten that domestic violence is significant within the novel, I'm slightly confused as to how it would be considered a motif. What recurring theme manifests itself through the motif? I've posted an idea, but I'm not sure.

I agree that Joe and Tea Cake's beating symbolizes male dominance over females. The underlying message Hurston means to express is that men constantly feel insecure and thus need to assert their controlling influence over their wives for everyone to see. However, I think we need to remember that Nanny also beats Janie. Perhaps a more inclusive interpretation of the physical act of beating would be protection from society. The theme that it articulates is that in attempting to avoid the harms of society, one merely causes more harm.

This may sound odd at first, but it makes sense once you think about it. Nanny beats Janie because she does not want Janie getting herself into trouble with Johnny Taylor since she does not want her to elope just so she can have an evanescent affair with him. ultimately wants Janie to be happy and secure with a respectable husband. She has good intentions, but is pressing upon Janie values that are not truly hers.

Joe beats Janie because she insults him about his looks and everyone in the store laughs at him. To show that he won't take this insult lying down and to hopefully abate the damage, he slaps her violently. Clearly, he wants to save face in front of society because he does not want others to think that his wife is wearing the pants in their relationship and is controlling him. Casting aspersions on her reputation, he attempts to mitigate the townsfolks' view of him. He acts based upon the values that he thinks society will accept, as to protect himself from the scrutiny of the rest of the citizens.

Tea Cake beats Janie similarly to show that he has control. In fact, the other men of Everglades are envious of how easily Janie takes a beating and tell Tea Cake that they wish their wives were as quiet and subservient as Janie when being beaten. In slapping Janie, Tea Cake conforms to societal values. He is happy that people believe he practically has Janie on a leash, because he does not want anyone else to even think about interfering with their marriage.

In all cases, the characters are succumbing to societal pressures so that they can escape from the damage society has the potential to inflict. However, their overprotective nature arguably contributes to all of their "deaths." (I hesitate from saying literal deaths.) Ironically, because all of them are so concerned with protecting themselves and Janie from society, they lose sight of the point of life. This even holds true with Tea Cake: even though he led a life of adventure, I believe he could have gotten more out of life had he not been so worried about Janie being infaithful.

Somewhere Over the Pear Tree?

Janie's journey sort of reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. She starts off this long journey, in controlling environments. First with Nanny deciding her future, and then later with Joe dominating every aspect of her life. Eatonville is like Janie's Kansas. It becomes her home environment, yet she longs for a change. Like Dorothy, she grows tired of the same old life. Janie needs to fly over the rainbow to fulfill her dreams and desires. The desires she dreamed under the pear tree, that blossomed and stretched its limbs towards the sky. The pear tree symbolizes Janie's self-discovery, as the rainbow does for Dorothy. 

They both then embark on their fantasies, Dorothy travels to Emerald City and Janie to the muck. They hope to fulfill their desires, and discover more about themselves in society or their "Ordinary World".  However, the end of their journey's bring about hardships for them to face. For Dorothy it was facing the witch to get her broom and for Janie it was facing the hurricane and ultimately Tea Cake's illness. Once the conquer their hardships they are allowed to return "home" back to Kansas and Eatonville. Both of the women's stories focus a great deal on self-discovery. They make new friends and conquer their fears, breaking free of their previous ignorance. This allows them to return to reality with better understanding of life and more importantly themselves. 

I think this might be an interesting blog for people to add to in their comments, so opinions and new idea are welcome! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Hurricane That Set Janie Free

I believe that the Hurricane is a major symbol in Their Eyes Were Watching God. It serves as a natural destruction as well as the contrast to happiness and the pear tree. The pear tree, representing Janie’s pleasure and the beauty of the world, contrasts with the hurricane that represents complete consternation and chaos in Janie’s world. The hurricane makes the characters impugn on whether God is true and genuine. Narrator Zora Neale Hurston states “They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” Hurston uses this powerful quote to show that it is everyone against God; nature against mankind. This is very important to the book because they question God and wonder if they are really meant to live or if this is God’s way to castigate them. This is the first real inner conflict that the characters have with God and serves as a major purpose to contrast their extreme religious beliefs.

I also believe that the hurricane represents Janie’s independence and all of the scattered conflicts in her mind finally coming to surface. Tea Cake acts as a stalwart to Janie, saving her life from the ferocious, heinous dog. Ironically, Tea Cake's beneficent, heroic quality caused him to eventually die in the end. I believe that this Hurricane served as a purpose to show the readers that although Janie whole heartedly loved Tea Cake, she is still always in conflict with herself and doesn’t know exactly what she wants. The hurricane killed Tea Cake and left Janie with two contrasting emotions; heartbroken and free. Between all the confusion and destruction of the hurricane, Janie theoretically broke free from the fetters that tied her down to society.

Language Appreciation

"The years took all the fight out of Janie's face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul."

Hurston's simple words combine to form such a powerful statement. Without even reading the passage, one can already understand the troubles that the character is undergoing. I think we can all take a lesson from Hurston. She is an example of something that is perfectly concise, and far from wordy. Each word has definite purpose. Less truly is more here.

Hurston masters contrasting dialogue with narration; discreetly adding personal experiences to her character's lives; unifying two very different worlds- that of her characters and the one in which we live. Her words are eloquent yet crass, plain yet intricate. One would think so many sharp contrasts would make for difficult reading and quirky tempo. But Hurston makes it work.

I like the quote above. It doesn't have any flowery imagery. It doesn't write another novel unto itself. It doesn't meander or try to trick you or hide something. It is direct, open, and honest. It states so little, but it tells so much about Janie. It reveals her strife, her depression, her lack of motivation, the change that has occurred in her. It's not crucial to the overall greatness of the novel, but it's still pretty important as a sentence in general. It's not something you have to read into a whole lot, but then again, maybe Hurston felt this way before too.

Hurston is ambiguous yet telling all at once.

She has the whole contrast business down.

She certainly is a great writer.

The Store as a prision

When Janie was married to Joe she had no freedom or Independence. He was her jailer and the store was her cell. Joe forced Janie to work at the store. He told her how to wear her hair and did not let her take part in any of the town's gatherings. When Janie asks to go to the Mule burial Joe tell her " But you ain't goin' off in all dat mess uh commonness. Ah'm surprised at yuh fuh askin" (60). When Joe was alive Janie could only listen to the porch talk from a distance and was not allowed to comment. Eventually she is isolated from the town even though she works in the hub of it. When Joe dies Jaine is released from store. She can talk to whoever she wants and sit on the porch whenever. She still runs the store but it no longer contains her. Janie learns to enjoy that freedom and is reluctant to find another "jailer" to take away her freedom.

Flashback... No Wait... Thats Now?

The most interesting thing about the structure and plot of Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God is the order in which she writes it. I took the liberty of re-reading the first chapter. I was shocked. I felt as if i was reading a whole new chapter that I hadn't read yet. It felt like the bonus footage that only comes out on DVD. That is how different that chapter read given all the information that I had from the rest of the novel.

Janie's life made so much more sense. The setting was such a more concrete thing. The old women on the porch were no longer strangers. Janie was no longer a stranger. Tea Cake was no longer some mysterious young guy who had apparently whisked Janie away from Eatonville. It really showed me how much the rest of the story had shaped my opinion of the characters. Also it sets up a very interesting foundation in the story. For example when you first actually meet Tea Cake later in the book you think to yourself "oh yea hes the one she runs off with!" This creates a more coherent structure in the plotline of the novel. If anyone has neglected to do so, I highly recommend re-reading this first chapter.

Remember Joe Starks?

"Didn't buy 'im fuh no work. I god, Ah bought dat varmint tuh let 'im rest. You didn't have gumption enough tuh do it." - Joe Starks

We read through all the chapters about Joe Starks, but no one ever stopped and posted about the internal conflicts he faces each day. So I guess I will.

Joe took on a project that requires so much responsibility, that it would make some weak in the knees. However, Joe is eager to get Eatonville into ship-shape and to show the world what the town is made of. He takes on many endeavors, such as building the general store and putting up the lamp post. He does his best to make the town a better place and to give its people more of what they had been missing. But Joe Starks still gets slack from the people around him.

Despite everything he had already shown them, Joe still needed to prove his integrity to the townspeople. Every day, he fights an internal battle with his ego, and an external one in attempt to gain the approval of the people he governs. In his heart, he knows he is better than the rest; he came from other parts, he knows what it is like to have money, he understands the importance of hard work in order to get the finer things in life. He knows he is smart, talented, and resourceful. But he also is wise enough to know that if he shows off too much, he will lose the support he works so hard to gain from the people of Eatonville. He constantly struggles to find the happy medium between satisfying himself, as well as his people. Too much or too little on either end always causes one or the other displeasure.

Joe Starks's external battle is to achieve true approval from the townspeople; he sets a goal to make sure they are happy with him. To pursue his goal, he decides to buy Matt's mule from him for $5, something Matt cannot refuse. Matt reminds Joe that the mule is old and useless after the transaction has occurred; Joe bought him for that very purpose though. He wants the townspeople to see that he does have a heart and realizes when enough is enough. As a result of this action, Joe earns the respect of society, who can now truly see his kind heart and compassionate soul. While this may be a short term victory for Joe, the battle never truly ends, as society does come to distrust him and be skeptic of him again later in the novel.

Beating Janie: a motif

Throughout this novel, Janie has been beaten by her husband many times. Each time she was beaten, it was as if her husband was putting her in her "rightful place". A beating symbolized male power and female weakness. Janie was beaten by both Joe and Tea Cake. Both times that she was beaten, it was because her husband felt threatened by a show of power.

Joe was anrgy that Janie talked back to him and that she was not being the proper, obedient wife that he thought she should be. When Janie embarassed him in front of his townspeople, Joe was so threatened by her, that he slapped her to put her back in her "rightful place". "And the cruel deceit of Janie! Making all that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. Joe Starks didn't know the words for this, but he knew the feeling. So he struck Janie with all his might and drove her from the store." This shows how threatened Joe felt when Janie stood up for herself and talked back to Joe. He was so angered by this, that he felt that he had to slap her in front of everyone, to show that he was still in control.

Tea Cake felt threatened because he was worried that Janie would run off with Mrs. Turner's brother. He beat Janie to show her that he was in charge and that she had better not disobey him. "Before the week was over, he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in posession." Tea Cake had no reason to whip Janie. He whipped her because he felt that he had to reassert his posession of her. This is similar to why Joe slapped Janie because in both cases, this action was caused by the male figure feeling threatened in some way by Janie.

Prejudices of All Sorts

What I found interesting was that Zora Neale Hurston touched upon other prejudices, not just racism, in her novel. First, there is the obvious theme of racism. The characters in the novel are mostly black. They speak the traditional dialogue of a black southerner, and most are uneducated. This is because at this time most African Americans did not have the same oppurtunities as the white people in America. Therefore they rarely recived an education or had the opurtunity to work at a high-paying job.

However, Hurston also touches upon other prejudices such as agism. Throughout the novel Janie is constantly told by others that Tea Cake is only after her money. No one believes that he truely loves her because he is younger than she is. However, although Tea Cake does seem to act suspicious at times, he and Janie are happy together. For them age does not matter.

Additionally, Hurston also adds sexism into her novel. Janie cannot marry who she wants at the beginning of the novel because she must marry someone who is more "suitable" for her. At this time women had little say in most matters, including marriage. Once in the marriage they were often treated badly by their husband. Janie experiences this with her first two marriages. She is constanted treated as an inferior by males. I found it interesting how Hurston incorportated all three predujices into her novel, and how many times they all seem to go together.

Janie, You're Looking Awfully Pale Today

Something I found extremely interesting about Their Eyes Were Watching God was the role of race throughout the plot. Although racism does not immediately seem like an important driving force through the novel, I believe that it is race that essentially shapes Janie journey throughout the novel.

We are all aware that Janie has white heritage. Although it is never specified in the novel, at the very least Janie is a quarter caucasian if not more. What I found interesting about this fact is that Janie is perhaps one of the only characters in the novel that seems to be unaware of or impartial to her white blood. In fact, one of the only times that Janie makes a note regarding her skin color is in the very beginning of chapter 2. In chapter 2, Janie discusses her early childhood, before any mention of love and its implications surface in the novel. This is Janie at her purest and most innocent, and what does she mention first? Janie reveals that as a child, she was raised around white folks. "Mah grandma raised me. Mah grandma and de white folks she worked wid... Ah was wid dem white chillun so much till Ah didn't know Ah wazn't white till Ah was round six years old" pg 8. I found this statement interesting because it reveals an important quality in Janie's character: Janie does not see color in people. As a child, Janie needed to be told that she was black. Janie's "color" blindness reveals a central reason as to why racism is rarely discussed openly in the novel. It is because to Janie, racism is not a ubiquitous presence in life.
Unfortunately, racism is actually an unescapable problem in black society. And everyone knows this except for her.

Thus race becomes an invisible force through Janie's life. It guides how others perceive her, how others treat her, and even (unknowingly) her own actions. What is unique about Janie's situation is that Janie is not simply a black woman, or a white woman. She is a mixture of both. Thus Janie cannot completely assimilate into black society, because she will always have physical qualities that her peers detest and simultaneously envy. Thus Janie will always be an outsider. Her white qualities, such as her hair, both attract her black companions because they are features that are reminescent of white superiority but also repel other black peers because they are qualities that ultimately condemn them to inferior status. This is completely inconvenient to Janie, considering that one of her only true wishes in life was to be accepted as part of the rest of her husbands' friends and townsfolk. This position in society also propels Janie's central conflict of finding true love. She cannot possibly find true love when all her suitors are attracted to her for her white features. This is the reason why Logan Killicks wanted to marry Janie-he liked her hair. This is the reason why Jody Starks married Janie- he liked her hair. Janie's quest for love becomes clouded with false suitors interested in her for the wrong reasons.

These sentiments about Janie become painfully clear with the inclusion of Mrs. Turner in the novel. Mrs. Turner also has mixed blood, but on the other hand, she is well aware of this fact and the implications it means for her in black society. She realizes that she is more white than other blacks and thus she concludes, she is superior to other blacks. But this rule works both ways. Janie is clearly even more white than Mrs Turner and therefore according to Mrs. Turner's belief, even more superior than even Mrs. Turner herself. Janie realizes Mrs. Turner's belief and describes it in chapter 16. "Insesate cruelty to those you can whip, and groveling submission to those you can't... Mrs. Turner, like all other believers had built an altar to the unattainable- Caucasian characteristics for all... Behind her crude words was a belief that somehow she and others through worship could attain her paradise- a heaven of straighthaired, thin-lipped, high nose boned white seraphs." pg. 145. This comment on Mrs. Turner's beliefs is representative of all those who looked upon Janie. Within Janie lied an unattainable treasure: Caucasion features. They worshipped Janie for the reason of her looks and at the same time cast her above all others, never to be accepted as one of them. After all she was a goddess. And all true goddess must demand homage.

Lastly I feel like Janie's skin color impacts the one of the climaxes of the novel: Janie's trial. In Janie's trial, she is being convicted for killing Tea Cake. Typical of the time period, she has an all white jury with black spectators in a segregated balcony- a To Kill a Mockingbird-esque situation. I thought that Janie's white blood truly became impacted the juries verdict. In most court cases during the time period, white jurors would find all black criminals guiltly. Surprisingly the white jury votes in favor of Janie. Why? Because they see her caucasian characteristics. Ironically in Janie's trial, it is the whites who are sympathetic to Janie's case and the blacks who want her convicted. Once again Janie's mixed blood prevents her from assimilating with the black community. If she had been truly black, she would have been convicted like any other black man or woman.

There's more but I honestly don't think I can go on like this. Maybe I'll add stuff later. *dies from fatigue*
p.s. The picture is of actor Robert Downey Jr. in the movie Tropic Thunder. His character is supposedly a black guy, but since Downey is white, he still looks undeniably like a white guy. Kind of like Janie..... only in male form. Add some long silky hair, overalls, and "pockets that look like they have grapefruits in them" and you got you're girl.

Psychological Outlook on Why Janie Chooses Tea Cake

In class, when we were talking about "Big Mama" and black mothers/mothers in general I realized something that could possibly connect to why Janie ends up satisfied with Tea Cake. I feel that Tea Cake subconsciously reminds Janie of Nanny. Nanny played the role of both Janie's parents, raising her as if she was her own daughter. Nanny's hardships forced her to play both the mother and father roles on order to allow Janie the possibility of a better life. To do this, she needs to play a role that is sweet and nurturing, as well as, controlling and showing tough-love. These are traits that also fit with Tea Cake. 

"She slapped the girl's face violently, and forced her head back so that their eyes met in struggle. With her hand uplifted for the second blow she saw the huge tear that welled up from Janie's heart and stood in each eye. She saw the terrible agony and the lips tightened down to hold back the cry and desisted. Instead she brushed back the heavy hair from Janie's face and stood their suffering and loving and weeping internally for both of them" (14).

This quote, shows a scene where we as readers see Nanny's get physically abusive with Janie in an attempt to control her and who she loves. Further down the page, Nanny says, "Yo' Nanny wouldn't harm a hair on yo' head." She shows her nurturing side here. This kind of actions must have confused Janie and how she perceives others. Later, on in the novel we see Tea Cake. A very friendly, kind man at first look. Once Janie and him get married, we see a different side to Tea Cake. He had controlling aspects in his personality, and whips Janie to show her and other whose boss. Soon after I recall a delightful passage of Tea Cake's wonderful side to his personality, that I feel Hurston  intentionally crafts to compare Nanny and Tea Cake. I find Tea Cake's behavior unusual, and feel like Nanny's unusual upbringing of Janie may have contributed to why Janie decided to be with him. So because Janie was raised how she was her mind and self believes this is an ideal person for a husband to take care of her.  

I could be completely wrong here, but I find it interesting to think about...

Language Appreciation

I really liked this quote: The years took all the fight out of Janie's face. No matter what Jody did, she did nothing...she was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels... (72).

In this quote Hurston describes Janie during her marriage with Joe. Joe verbally abuses her continuously, as if she represents the "rut" in Joe's road and controls her oppressively. Although Janie has plenty of life and determination inside her, she is unable to let it all come out because of Joe's oppressive nature. Of course, a prime example of this is the way Joe forbids Janie to let down her hair in public. Janie's straight hair represents her spirit and individuality - it makes her unique in the midst of all the other black woman. I felt that everytime Joe reproved her with verbal or physical abuse a little part of her soul wept in sadness and submission. Thus Joe's vitriolic attacks keep beating Janie down, like the wheels of a wagon perhaps.

I suppose that this attitude of Janie's was very common in the 1920s to the 30s. In fact, women were given suffrage rights only in 1919 - so before that, women were not even in an equal footing! So even though this subservient nature is not typical of Janie, I am sure that it was typical for many women of that time period.

Monday, March 2, 2009

opposition of desegregation

In chapters seventeen to twenty, there are several accounts where Zora Neale Hurston's lifestyle, opinions, beliefs, influences, and attitudes were shown. An important belief that Hurston always believed in was how she opposed desegregation. She believed that blacks were as good as whites that there was no need to even put them together. Why should they have to be put into together? She did not need segregation to tell her she was just as good or better than whites. Being black was something intrinsic to Hurston so she did not feel the need to prove herself.

This belief is shown in certain chapters. An example of this belief in chapter 17, when all the black men ruin items in the Turners house. Hurston says "You see dese no count niggers come in heah and break up mah place" (152) and Hurston also says "We'se goin' back tuh Miami where folks is civilized," (153) and this shows that Mrs. Turner does believes that she is better than the men because she has lighter skin and is more civilized. Hurston made sure that these quotes were added to emphasize how certain colored folks do not need to be put together and its actually better off if they are separated. It also shows that certain people may believe they are better due to their skin color, but in fact they are all the same.

Another example of Hurston's belief of opposing desegregation was in chapter eighteen. Chapter eighteen is the chapter that Tea Cake is forced to bury the dead. At one point when he was burying the dead he "got orders from headquarters. They makin' coffins fuh all de white folks" (171). This order that was demanded shows that Hurston wanted to show how white and black people should not be together. The way they were buried should be separate, just like the way they are going to heaven should be different. Hurston makes it known in many incidents throughout the novel that blacks and whites do not need to be together because blacks do not need to prove to anyone how intelligent, useful, and valuable they can be.

Caught in the middle: Janie’s constant struggle to find her place in society
-JimmyEatWorld: the Middle

Throughout the course of TEEWG, I have realized that Janie is constantly trying to find her place in society. Janie never feels like she is entirely apart of the black community and at the same time cannot join the white community either. The reader has to keep in mind that Janie is not fully black and therefore has some physical Caucasian traits (her straight hair). One example of this is seen through the character Mrs. Turner who “didn’t cling to Janie Woods the woman. She paid homage to Janie’s Caucasian characteristics and such. And when she was with Janie, she had a feeling of transmutation, as if she herself had become whiter and with straighter hair” (145). *this once again also ties into the idea that Janie’s hair makes her a powerful individual. I also don't believe that Janie ever truly felt that she fit in with the Eatonville community. She always seemed distant from the rest of the community. It was almost as if her white qualities (her hair) make people in the black community look at her in a different way. Everyone seems infactuated with it as I said before in my symbol post about her hair.

Also, during the trial that Janie was put in after she shot Teacake, the black community at first ostracized her feeling that she had done wrong and was a horrible person: " They were all against her, she could see. So many were there against her that a light slap from each one would have beat her death" (185). The white community however supported her. She was tried in front of an all white court that determined that she was not guilty. I wonder if Hurston is trying to prove how difficult it is to figure out where one belongs or if she feels that one needs to find their place in a community.

I feel like this idea is a relatively big one so feel free to add onto it :)
-Erin :)

The Divine Motif

Something that occurred to me constantly throughout the novel was this idea of divine forces. I hesitate to say "God," because I don't believe that God is discussed in the traditional sense in this novel. Rather, Hurston brings up the concept of Death and Fate. The entire novel, in fact, is Janie's quest to reach a spiritual unity with herself. I don't think anyone on this blog has attempted to tackle a motif yet. I'm not 100% sure this is a motif, so I'd like to hear input from others about what you think.

As a motif, we now need to examine how it supports a theme. Ultimately, what Janie learns at the end of the novel is that there are "two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves" (192). In essence, a major theme of TEWWG is that one has not lived a complete life until one has taken risks to discover the world for oneself.

Notice how the novel begins: "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" (1). "Time" is capitalized, indicating that Hurston is portraying Time as a deity that has control over human lives. Since Time is mocking an individual's dreams to death, it is the ultimate destroyer of life. The tide coming in is controlled by forces of nature. The horizon is a symbol of Janie's aspirations. I'm not sure if I'm interpreting this quote correctly, but I believe that the ships coming in with the tide are those that have accomplished their goals. In returning, they have taken a piece of the horizon with them. Those that sail forever on the horizon are lost, and the dreams that they carry are mocked to death. In the end, Janie "pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see" (193). Janie feels that she has genuinely lived life because her ship has sailed back to shore. She has seen the effect of fate on her life, but has taken a step further to come back to shore by allowing herself to become enlightened. Unlike the ships that are lost at sea, forever drifting toward the horizon, allowing themselves to be owned by the sea, Janie sails back in with the tide, applying the understanding she has gained from living with Joe and Tea Cake. She has brought her life back to a full circle upon discovering life for herself, thus bringing about the sense of enlightenment and fulfillment learned from the divine forces she encountered and defied.

Another example in which we see divine forces mentioned occurs in Sam and Lige's brawl over whether nature or caution prevents a baby from touching a hot stove: "it's nature, cause nature makes caution. It's de strongest thing dat God ever made, now. Fact is it's de onliest thing God ever made. He made nature and nature made everything else" (65). It is important to notice that this argument takes place after Janie expresses her discontent about not being able to attend the mule's burial. The hot stove represents a life of adventure that Joe forbids Janie from living. Nature, or fate, is holding Janie back. When she goes to defy her fate of a dull life, she is ultimately burned by the death of Tea Cake. However, in this encounter with the wrathful forces of fate, Janie truly discovers herself and feels satisfied with her life.