Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Heroine's Journey: Following Janie Home

Now that the novel is entirely finished, I thought I would outline how I see the turning points in Janie's Hero(ine) Journey.The Ordinary World: I think most people would agree that Janie's Ordinary World is her life with Nanny where she knows nothing but her small town.

The Call to Adventure: Like we talked about in class, I believe that Janie's Call occurs when she feels the stirrings under the pear tree. On page 10, it says, "It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness." This is what convinced me that the pear tree is Janie's Herald and this is her call to adventure. This description evokes the image of something within Janie fighting to the surface where she can't ignore it any more, such that it was with her both waking and sleeping. They have "buried themselves in her flesh" and so the Call becomes a part of her being that she cannot suppress. Also I thought it was ironic that this section uses the actual word 'quest' (which I italicized).

Refusal of the Call:
When Janie married Logan Killicks, she is refusing the call because she decides that the safety and prerogative he can bring her with his land and money is stronger that her desire, thus giving into the 'fears or insecurities' mentioned in the description of the refusal. Nanny is the main cause for this refusal because of her role as the Shapeshifter.

Meeting the Mentor:
At the moment she meets him, I think Joe Starks is somewhat a Mentor. More in that he brings back the sense of wonder within Janie that was inspired by the pear tree and the original call. The real mentor for Janie is "an inner force such as a code", which for Janie is her strength and desire for independence and love. But I still include Joe in this section because his marriage offer is what triggers the arrival of Janie's inner Mentor.

Crossing the Threshold:
Janie's threshold is clearly when she gets into the carriage with Joe, hoping to find the true love and satisfaction that she never had with Logan, and marries him, thus unable to return to Logan both personally and legally.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies:
Janie has many tests, but I viewed this part of her journey as a regression back to the way she was in her Ordinary World. When in Eatonville, she loses her spirit and drive due to Joe's suppression of her. Janie "learns who can be trusted" in this stage as she finds her "bosom friend" Pheoby. At Joe's death, and the end of this stage, Janie is able to "test her skills and powers" as she remonstrates him for not knowing who she was as a person and for hiding it.

Approach to the Inmost Cave:
This stage is completely related to Tea Cake, in my opinion. I see his character as a Trickster in the way he completely disrupts Eatonville, allows Janie to laugh and be happy, and is with her for the rest of the novel. Janie has just "survived her descent into the Special World" as she becomes self-sufficient after Joe's death and refuses every man who tried to marry her. Then when she meets Tea Cake, Janie is able to grow internally and, when she leaves Eatonville to marry him, Janie moves closer to her Ordeal.

The Ordeal:
Janie's Ordeal is the night when Tea Cake has seemingly run off with her money and Janie is all alone without anyone for comfort and feels surrounded by the many caveats that Tea Cake was only with her for her money. During this night, Janie faces "her greatest fear" in being used for nothing but her money. She loves Tea Cake at this point, and the idea that Tea Cake abused her trust is devastating. But also this night gives Janie the characterized "greater powers or insight" when she realizes that Tea Cake might be imperfect, but he is not abusing her love and she can trust him to try and treat her well.

Janie's reward is the time her spends with Tea Cake on the muck. During this part of the novel, there is next to no strife - excepting the fleeting jealousies between Tea Cake and herself - and Janie comes even more into her independence and self-assurance as she learns to hunt, performers physical labor as she never has been allowed to before, and speaks out amongst the new porch sitters instead of allowing them to talk around her, but not with her, as she did in Eatonville.

The Road Back:
This, I felt, occurred explicitly during the hurricane. Janie and Tea Cake are forced back into the more harsh lifestyle of the cities in order to escape the flood of the lake, which is the "event that pushes her back". Janie accepts this road back as she takes Tea Cake's advice that they shouldn't stay in the cabin because it will be washed away. Also, after this point Tea Cake becomes sick and Janie is forced out of her simple life on the muck where it appears that Tea Cake is invincible and nothing can destroy her happiness.

The Resurrection:
Described as "the Hero's most dangerous meeting with death", Janie's resurrection begins when she faces down Tea Cake while he points a gun at her after getting mad dog. This is the physical Ordeal that is mentioned, and once it is over, Janie having shot Tea Cake, she is reborn and clearly "accepts her sacrifice for the benefit of the Ordinary World." Janie sacrifices her love and companion, Tea Cake, because his mad dog could easily infect a large number of people on the muck and so she chooses to end his life and take the personal pain that comes from being without him in exchange for protecting their society. In this manner Janie achieves her Heroic Status as well.

Return with the Elixir:
Finally, Janie return with the elixir is clearly shown as she comes back to Eatonville and "shares the Elixir of the Journey with others" as she tells Pheoby her tale in order to show Pheoby the vastness of her internal growth and inspire Pheoby in her own life.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Characterization of Janie- The Story Comes Full Circle

As the novel, Their Eyes are Watching God concludes, the story returns to where it first began. Janie is telling her story to one of her good friends, Pheoby Watson. After reading the final passages of the novel and rereading the first chapter, it is shown that Janie is portrayed as an independent and self-confident woman. She does not care what the porch sitters think about her and does not make a big deal upon her return to the town following the hurricane and Tea Cake’s death. She also is not affected by the assumptions that the community has made about her. After Janie returns from the Everglades and passes by the porch the sitters comment “What she doin coming back here en dem overhalls?-Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off wid?- Thought she was going to marry?- Where he left her?-What he done wid all her money?- Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs- Why she don’t stay in her class?” Although the community knows nothing about Janie and Tea Cakes relationship or experience, they judge her by her clothing and appearance when she returns home. They figure that Tea Cake has left Janie for another younger woman, when in actuality he has passed away. Pheoby tells Janie about the rumors of the porch sitters. After hearing Janie’s story, Pheoby becomes upset with the porch sitters and says “ Nobody better not criticize yuh in mah hearin” Differently than Pheoby, Janie ignores these rumors and tells Pheoby “Ah know all dem sitters-and-talkers gointuh worry they guts into fiddle strings till dey find out whut we been talking; bout. Dat’s alright, Pheoby, tell ‘em.” I think that this shows that Janie has finally come to understand herself and does not care what others think about her. She does not want to be shaped by the judgments of society as she used to be when she was younger.

The last piece of dialogue in the book is spoken by Janie who says “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.” I found this quote to be somewhat transcendentalist. I also thought that it related to self-reliance by Emerson because Janie no longer relies on the opinions of society but rather relies on herself. Throughout the novel Janie tries to find out who she is in the world and with this quote, I think that she has shown that she has done that.

*The picture is of a kid in overalls looking at nature so i figured that kind of tied in to Janie at the end of the novel.

A Freudian Perspective on Janie's Troubles

I found myself wondering why Janie is so quick to let all of these men into her lives. After only a few encounters with Tea Cakes, she starts to love and trust him with all her heart. The same held true for Joe Starks - after a few meetings of flirtation, Janie decided to run away with him. Janie's fickle tendencies seem rash and ill-thought out. So I connected Janie's problems with Freud's explanation on how women pick their husbands.

Freud said that a young girl's "first love" is her father, meaning that she sees him, idealizes him and expects those same qualities to be in other men in her lives. Janie never knew her father, so according to Freud, she is confused on what she is looking for in men. She wonders if she needs a man that lets her be an equal, or a man that keeps her subservient. Due to the lack of a father figure in her life, internal confusion causes her to noncommittal relationships - from Logan to Joe to Tea Cakes.

Janie's confusion about her thoughts and feelings can also be traced back to the traumatic experiences of her childhood. Freud said that we hide traumatic, stressful events deep down in our unconsciousness.
Both her mother and her grandmother were taken brutally advantage of - they were nothing more than objects to men that abused them. Even hearing about the rape of her mother is so traumatic that it still affects Janie as an adult - she allows men to debase her, abuse her and make her servile to them.

If only Janie had the opportunity to go to a Freudian psychotherapist today...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Conflicting Thoughts with Tea Cake

In the chapters 10-15, Janie faces many internal and external conflicts regarding Tea Cake. At first, she isn’t sure if he is serious about her since she is so much older than he is, and she has a lot of money. She believes that is it just a fling to him and that he will lose interest one day and leave. There are also all of the other members in the town that add to her worry when they all tell her that it isn’t a good idea to be with Tea Cake. Even though she doesn’t choose to tell Tea Cake her worries, he still manages to notice on his own and reassure her that he loves her. This way, he is able to resolve her conflicting thoughts, if only temporarily.

There is also the time when Tea Cake is gone all day and all night along with her two hundred dollars. Janie worries that Tea Cake took her money and left, just like what happened to Annie Tyler. Even though she wants to believe in him and trust that he is coming back, she can’t help but be insecure about herself. She can’t get rid of her fears that he will take her money or find a younger woman.

She has another internal conflict that becomes an external one when they are working in the fields. When Janie sees Tea Cake flirting with Nunkie, she worries again. All of these conflicts over Tea Cake relate back to Janie’s insecurity over her age. While trying to believe in Tea Cake, it still can not be ignored.

Silence Speaks Louder Than Words...

Throughout the second half of the novel, Janie, who once spoke her mind about whatever she wished, grows quieter. This is not apparant all the time, for she still speaks constantly. However, it is as if she has chosen to sensor herself. She has mastered her impulse to speak her mind, no matter what the consequences. You might think that this is a sign of weakness, but I find it as a sign of strength. It takes a great deal of self control to remain silent at the times when you most want to speak your mind. Janie, unsatisfied with the way that she is dominated by the men in her life, found a way to convey her power through her silence.

This is shown in chapter 17, when Janie is being beaten by a jealous Tea Cake. Tea Cake beats Janie as if to show her that she belongs to him. If this had happened earlier in the novel, Janie probably would have been very angry and spoke out against Tea Cake. However, Janie takes the beating silently and does not hold a grudge against Tea Cake. In this way, Janie is showing her power over Tea Cake. She is silently conveying that it does not affect her to be beaten down, that she is strong enough to bear the pain. This way of asserting her power, is much more powerful than a sulky complaint would have been. Janie took the beating like a man, proving to Tea Cake that she is stronger than ever. In this way, Janie has become more powerful. She does not use meaningless words to try to prove her power. Rather, she uses silence as if to show how strong she really is.

Tea Cake? Honestly You Can Do Better Janie.

Is it just me, or is Tea Cake less than the perfect husband to you?

Personally I feel like Janie could do better. Perhaps her first two marriages with Logan Killicks and Jody Starks had left her desperate, but I thought Tea Cake was hardly the glorified hunk that he seems to be to Janie.

Let me characterize Tea Cake. Tea Cake is a womanizer. Tea Cake is irresponsible. Tea Cake is envious. Tea Cake is violent. Tea Cake is a terrible nickname.

Now I'm not saying Tea Cake is a bad person. We all have our vices, but what I find unusual about Tea Cake is that he remains the same even after marrying Janie. Women are the reformers of men. When a man is tied down, so to speak, he no longer has the same privileges that he once had. A relationship often implies a matter of equity and sacrifice. Both members of the party must give up the luxury of being single and commit to the other person. Janie clearly commits to her relationship with Tea Cake. Many men find her attractive and yet she never mentions the thought of infidelity. She does not even go so far as to flirt with other men. Tea Cake on the other hand clearly retains his casanova qualities. His little episode with Nunkie was proof of a refusal to relieve his position as a womanizer. When Janie witnesses this relationship with Nunkie, she immediately chastises Tea Cake, but fails to teach him a lesson. Usually sleeping with your partner after catching him or her flirting does not count as punishment. In this situation, Tea Cake comes out as the victor, having flirted with Nunkie and still receiving passionate love from Janie. Janie on the other hand remains the loser.

But jealousy is not solely exhibited within Janie. Tea Cake is an envious, controlling man. In certain situations, I believe that jealousy is a necessary and healthy facet to a working relationship, but Tea Cake represents an extremety. When Mrs. Turner pressures Janie to meet her brother, Tea Cake is furious. Some jealousy is warranted in this situation, but the method in which Tea Cake deals with his envy is unacceptable. He begins by trashing Mrs. Turner's business. This is illegal, violent, and immature. Why must he directly attack Mrs. Turner's livelihood to ward off her brother. A simple discussion with Mrs. Turner or Janie would suffice in most cases, but Tea Cakes is obviously not like most cases. At one point, Tea Cake violently hits Janie to appease his envy. When questioned, Tea Cake's reasoning does not even make sense. Apparently by hitting your wife, you will scare off her suitors. Yeah... no. This scene is strangely reminescent to Jody's outburst at Janie in the store earlier in the novel. Both men were subjected to a situation where a feeling of loss of control occured. Both men remedied the situation by beating Janie. I thought we've already agreed that this was bad. And let's not forget Tea Cake pointing his gun at Janie out of jealousy. This is a slightly unfair accusation considering Tea Cake had rabies, but come on, the man almost shot his wife out of envy. We cannot dismiss this act as purely the fault of the sickness. Rabies probably amplified Tea Cakes violence and envy, but the envy is still present at the heart.

Perhaps the strangest problem with Tea Cake is his irresponsiblity. The very first night Janie marries Tea Cake, he leaves her in the early morning, takes her money, and parties for multiple days. Janie should have quit Tea Cake that very moment. Tea Cake finds the money and gambles it away. He drinks copiously and parties with strange people for something like two or three days. Then he returns with a bunch of random junk and says sorry. That is ridiculous, or a mental disorder. Tea Cake proceeds to feed Janie a bunch of sorry, sappy, apologetic excuses of which Janie continues to eat up. Tea Cake's reasoning was that he has these random urges to go splurge and party (Janie should be regretting marriage with him at this point) and that he doesn't want Janie to get involved in such tomfoolery. To make for the spent money, Tea Cake proposes to gamble her money back. That doesn't even idiomatically sound correct. Ususally one gambles money away. Luckily for Janie, Tea Cake proves to be a "skilled" dice thrower (a game completely dependent on luck by the way) and wins back her 200 dollars. Not only this, but Tea Cake offers to bring Janie with him next time he goes on a party rampage. Janie is immediately attracted to the idea because of her late husband's previous refusals to includ Janie in any of his activities. Thus Janie remains absorbed in Tea Cake's web of irresponsibility.

My bet is that if Janie had not had such terrible experiences with men in the past, Tea Cake would not have had a chance with Janie. He is too flawed. There relationship hardly presents a sense of equity or sacrifice. Actually scratch the latter bit, Janie sacrificed plently. She did almost go to jail because of Tea Cake after all.

Janie vs. town's people

External and Internal Conflict

In quite a few chapters, Janie has been having conflicts. Janie is facing the town’s criticism of her and Tea Cake as a couple. Many people think that Janie should still be mourning. Many also believe it’s rude of her to be going off with another man so early, as seen in the book that “Joe Starks hadn’t been dead but nine months and here she goes sashaying off to a picnic in pink linen” (110). They believe that Janie is being discourteous about the whole situation and they hate to see her with such a man as Tea Cake. The town’s people also try to expostulate her from being with Tea Cake by telling her that Tea Cake is too young for her, Tea Cake is going to use her money up, and that Tea Cake is not a good match for her. Janie is conflicted with this mass amount of information she keeps receiving and because the town inveighs this new romance. She is torn on whether to believe the town’s people, including her good friends, or to ignore them. This internal conflict is always keeping Janie skeptical of Tea Cake, because she doesn’t know if she can truly trust him.

This issue Janie is facing puts more interest into the story because it keeps one guessing on how this relationship is going to work out. The only reason why it’s such a big deal that Janie and Tea Cake are in a relationship is because Janie is Joe Stark’s widow and she is very attractive. The town’s people loved Joe, but didn’t know him like Janie did. They all are sticking up for Joe when they say such things about this relationship. Also, a major percentage of the town’s people who are complaining are men. Most men wanted Janie for themselves so they are speaking out of jealousy. In the middle of all this, Janie is left confused and torn. Now the cause may be because of liking Joe and the jealousy, but the effects of this conflict are greater. Due to everyone looking down upon this relationship, Janie has a hard time fully letting herself trust Tea Cake. She always seems very skeptical and cautious of Tea Cake’s actions. The effect of this conflict is either going to leave her broken-hearted or distant from her old hometown and all her friends who lived there.

Setting and Location: The Everglades

(Edit: I just noticed that Adam posted about this topic before me, but I think we used different details etc.)

Tea Cake brings Janie to the Everglades, which he refers to as “de muck” (128). Simply from this description, the Everglades seem like a rather unattractive place to live. There is no established town in this area of Florida, and Janie notes that the weeds are ten feet tall. However, Tea Cake goes on to say that the people who live there “don’t do nothin’ down dere but make money and fun and foolishness” (128).  This description is significant because more than any place else, Janie is really happy in the Everglades. Thus, the Everglades set a happy and relaxing mood. 

Janie describes everything she sees in the Everglades as new, and she enjoys this different life. Compared to the other places that she has lived, the Everglades could almost be considered a regression in her life. This is especially true when the Everglades are compared to Eatonville, where Janie lived in a gigantic house and was the wife of the mayor. However, although the Everglades might have poorer housing, a tougher terrain, and less “civilized” company, Janie finds happiness because of her experiences there. First of all, Janie is with the man she loves, Tea Cake. In addition, Janie experiences a freedom that she has not had in her previous marriages. For example, Tea Cake teaches her how to hunt. Back then, hunting was probably considered more of a male sport, but the men who live with Janie and Tea Cake in the Everglades do not find it bizarre that Janie can use a rifle. In fact, the men are impressed by Janie’s hunting ability instead of repulsed by it. Janie herself notices this acceptance because “men held big arguments here like they used to do on the store porch. Only here, she could listen and laugh and even talk some herself if she wanted to” (134). In essence, Janie has become an active participant whereas beforehand, she was simply a watcher.  

In conclusion, Everglades serves as the place where Janie is finally content with her life. Janie thrives in an environment where she is with Tea Cake and where she can act how she wants.

Janie lives near Lake Okechobee, so this is a picture of the lake at sunrise. Actually, the title of the picture said sunrise, but the description said sunset. Since a sunrise fits better with the idea that Janie is happy at the Everglades (and since I can’t tell the difference) we can pretend that it is a sunrise.  

Vocab Splurge and What's up with Sweet Cakes?

The first time when Tea Cake's actions occurred to me as bizarre was when he left Janie and pillaged her $200 from her secret hiding spot. Janie's greatest fears finally came to mind after all her friends and neighbors caveats that this kind of thing would happen. Janie worried into the rest of that day and the entire night. Tea Cake's absence jaded Janie and caused lassitude to permeate throughout her body. I could not understand why Tea Cake would leave without telling her and why he took the money without her consent. What surprised me even more was when he came back and explained what happened. His story led me to feel suspicious about his actions and why he didn't just leave an innuendo of where he was going if it wasn't such a big deal. I find Tea Cake to be a very odd character and his nature a strange one for any woman to fall in love with. First of all he is a gambler and says he has a proclivity, or possibly a propensity for the game. Gambling usually leads to a road of decadence which makes me wonder why Janie still loves to be around a guy who gambles with her money. Most of the time Tea Cake is affable and sometimes too friendly. Janie gets jealous when Tea Cake seems to be flirting with a chubby chick and scolds him for being inconsiderate of her feelings.

What hit me next was when Mrs. Taylor described Tea Cake as coarse and "too black" and also attempted to set up Janie with her brother to meet. Tea Cake, who was in the next room being a creeper, overhears. His next action was to scourge Janie for doing absolutely nothing and to show Mrs. Taylor that he is the boss. I couldn't believe a strong woman like Janie would take it without reacting but she just took it and said nothing. I supposed love has that affect on people but I expected better from Janie to notice the out of the ordinary. Her laborous and provincial life with Tea Cake is patently anomalous especially for a woman of her wealth and beauty. Tea Cake tends to act differently when not around Janie and he admits that he has bad habits. For example, he starts a fight just to ruin Mrs. Taylor's restaurant and to try to dissipate her from the town. Clearly an ignoble act, yet Janie does not mind that her husband acts immaturely when she is not around. Tea Cake is a character that truly disconcerts me because one moment he is a sweet beneficent husband and the next he debases himself by beating his wife just to show off his power.

Classmates, I remonstrate you all to not feel jealous for my impressive composition of twenty-one vocabulary words. Hohohohohoho, this post is so 1337. Also, I welcome a discussion about why Tea Cake acts the way he does and is his tender care towards Janie enough to disconcern his bad qualities?

"'It's uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there. Yo papa and yo' mama and nobody else can't tell yuh and show yuh. 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).

"Love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's a movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shores it meets, and it's different with every shore" (191).

These two quotations, taken from Janie's narration on the last few pages of Their Eyes Were Watching God, help to wrap up and explain two intertwined themes developed by Hurston throughout the novel. The first quote has to do with Janie's journey, stemming from that first moment underneath the pear tree, when she knew she wanted to find true love for herself. While in the beginning she was influenced by Nanny to reject the call to adventure and settle down with Logan Killicks, eventually Janie broke free and set out to create her own life and find love.

By the end of the novel, Janie is describing her experience with love to Pheoby using a couple of different metaphors. She says love isn't "lak uh grindstone," meaning everyone experiences it in the same way, but rather "love is lak de sea", it is vast and varied from coast to coast, warm and calm some places, cold and rough in others. Janie had to leave the town where she grew up in dissension of her late grandmother's opinion on love and marriage in order to make this discovery, which is Hurston's greatest message to her audience.

The world isn't built for all the answers to be handed to you, but if you want something so bad that you are willinging to leave the ordinary world and venture into the unknown to find it, you will be rewarded. Janie faced a lot of opposition to her dream of what love was, but because she was able to overcome the acrimonious sneers of her neighbors and the adversity of gender roles at that time period, she was able to discover that her love was different and true; a notion that, to the consternation of her peers, leaves Janie satisfied and whole even after Tea Cake dies.

The Muck : the place in which Janie and Tea Cake Find Happiness

I found it striking in Their Eyes Where Watching God that the setting changes so drastically throughout the book. The differences between Eatonville and the Muck are abnormally vast. Eatonville is completely rural and quaint with the little houses and the local general store. Everything seems all prim and proper which includes the way in which the townspeople act.
In the muck however, life is far less puritanical.

Janie and Tea Cake both benefit more from this lifestyle. They enjoy the social side of the Muck and are often carousing with the local men who seem to all have rediculous names such as Sop-de-Bottom. These names themselves express the idea that everyone is laid back and completely comfortable with one another down in the muck. The fact that Tea Cake shares this tradition of odd nicknames shows that he is more accepted by the people while Janie is once again slightly removed from society. However, unlike in Eatonville with Joe Starks, Tea Cake makes a concerted effort to include Janie in his society and make her feel welcome. This is a major factor in Janie and Tea Cake's shared love. One of the many things that Tea Cake does to show his respect for Janie.

The other interesting thing that arises from the muck (hohoho?) is that it wold normally be percieved as a very ugly and unappealing place. However, it gives birth to something truly beautiful in the relationship between Janie and Tea Cake. This more wild side that would first be considered by a first time observer of the muck becomes more evident later once the hurricane hits. It proves that the setting of the muck was one that creates a beautiful thing before inevitably being the destructor of that same beauty when Tea Cake is afflicted with Rabies.
Old and Wise
As I read chapter two I became more aware of the relationship between Janie and her Grandmother and how affectionate and strong it was. Hurston uses a great amount of imagery to express their relationship and to describe each individual and their characteristics. In chapter two, the narrator stated, “She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her?... Looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made” (Hurston 11). This imagery of nature and the bee’s and leaves that was used to describe Janie’s characteristics and feelings reminded me of the Disney tale Pocahontas. Pocahontas is an individual who looks to nature to seek her true meaning of life which relates to Janie’s impatience while waiting for the world to be made. Both woman are filled with desperation and hope that they will one day be satisfied with the life they live and therefore turn to nature to decide what they want. They strived for “the singing bees” which they do not have and the love that would one day fill their hearts. Although they are both extremely independent, they long for someone who can make their life worthwhile and understand them for who they truly are.
As Hurston describes, the Grandmother’s head and face “looked like the standing roots of some old tree that had been torn away by a storm. Foundation of ancient power that no longer mattered.” Hurston stated that “the cooling palma Christi leaves that Janie has bound about her grandma’s head with a white rag had wilted down and become part and parcel of the woman. Her eyes didn’t bore and pierce. They diffused and melted Janie, the room and the world into one comprehension. (Hurston 12). This brilliant imagery creates a visualization in my head of the old Willow Tree that served as the mentor figure to Pocahontas. She is old, yet wise, and her brilliant appearance has worn away but her heart is still tremendously intact. The Grandmother, representing the image of an old tree, serves as Janie’s inspiration and comprehension of the world. She gives advice to Janie not to make her unhappy but to give her a better life. It reminds me of the relationship between Pocahontas and the Grandmother Willow because the old Willow serves as an encourager to Pocahontas where she can free her mind and the willow will lead her in the right direction.
Language and Imagery: Determining the Setting

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, language plays an important role throughout the story. Zora Neale Hurston uses language for the reader’s to get the feel of the setting in which the story takes place. Also, the language of the novel not only serves as dialogue it resembles an act of telling the story rather than writing. By using dialogue, the readers are able to visualize the story and the setting.
By reading the first chapter, I noticed that the story was set in a southern state and sometime during the 1920’s/1930’s. Hurston uses a great amount of dialogue to describe the characters and the imagery of the south. The dialogue seemed to be uneducated and I found it hard to fully understand which means it took place when African Americans were treated unfairly and weren’t offered the same education as whites. The difference between the narration and the dialogue is a drastic change and serves as an important purpose of showing the readers the difference between the informal language of the 1920’s and the Standard Written English of the present. The severe change of language portrays the importance of managing language and how different the past and the present are.
The imagery also serves as an important role in determining the place and time. On the first page, the narrator states that “it was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk” (Hurston 1). With this simple sentence I can already tell that it is a nice, hot day where people enjoy sitting outside and talking to their neighbors. I can tell that it takes place in the past because the imagery of people sitting outside on the porch in their chairs and interacting with their neighbors is something that people enjoyed doing before technology and cars.

Language Appreciation: Janie's Panic

In Chapter 13, I came across a particularly compelling passage following Tea Cake and Janie's marriage and relocation to Jacksonville. He promises her that he will get her fish to fry for breakfast, but happens to borrow her money to splurge. Janie's reaction is one of disbelief and consternation:

"But, don't care how firm your determination is, you can't keep turning round in one place like a horse grinding sugar cane. So Janie took to sitting over the room. Sit and look. The room inside looked like the mouth of an alligator - gaped wide open to swallow something down. Outside the window Jacksonville looked like it needed a fence around it to keep it from running out on ether's bosom. It was too big to be warm, let alone to need somebody like her. All day and night she worried time like a bone" (118).

I love the indirect comparison of Janie to a horse grinding sugar cane. Both possess stubborn and willful qualities along with determination; however Janie realizes that there is no point in looking for the money when it clearly is not there, so she stops to think. Though she hates to admit she might have made a mistake in marrying Tea Cake, she cannot help but think of Annie Tyler, another woman who had been taken advantage of. Grinding the sugar cane represents the pursuit of a highly romanticized and ideal lifestyle that is seeming to fail Janie in this passage. However, we must keep in mind that the sugar cane provides no benefit for the horse. The horse is essentially a means to a profit for his/her master, just as Janie fears being used by men once again. As her grandmother told her before, she knows the harsh reality is that black women are the subservient mules of the world. However, Janie constantly tries to push away this reality since it conflicts with her idealistic thoughts of romance. At this moment, though, Nanny's advice is coming back to haunt her, resulting in an ambivalence and doubt in sentiments toward men.

Moreover, the comparison of the room to an alligator flagged my interest. Janie is fearful that she has fed herself to the "alligator" of false promises. It threatens to swallow any independence gained after Joe's death and crush it to pieces, preying on Janie's naivety. Jacksonville is too much for her and she begins to feel unwanted and insignificant. Of course, she did not expect to feel abandoned before since Tea Cake had lavished attention on her. She begins to feel like a tiny, negligible part of a foreign entity she feels she cannot fit in with. Due to Nanny's upbringing, she cannot help but question whether or not Tea Cake genuinely loves her or is merely using her. She lacks a basic trust in Tea Cake, even though she terribly wants so much to have faith in him.

The Hurricane as the Great Flood

Many know the Story of Noah's ark and how God let it rain for 40 days and nights in order to cleanse the Worlds of sin. Up to this point in the novel Janie's life had not been clean of sin according to the bible. She left her first husband and remarried twice. In the Glades where Tea cake and Janie picked beans there was a lot of drinking and gambling. The Indians provide the First warning but the people Scoff at them. Some however follow as the Indians continue East. Lias offered Janie and Tea Cake a ride to safety but they refuse. In a way Lias's car is like the ark and they just denied safe passage. When the Rains start Tea Cake is throwing die with Motor boat. Janie understands God's part in this natural disaster. She tells Tea Cake "Ah'm glad y'all stop dat crap-shootin' even if it wasn't for money.""Ole Massa is doin' His work now. Us oughta keep quiet." After the storm Janie realizes how much she loved Tea Cake and goes home older and quieter. God cleansed her body and soul with the rain and also showed her his true power. Through this hurricane Janie found and trusted god.

Love Hurts: External Conflicts Between Janie and Tea Cake

One initially strange aspect I noticed about Janie and Tea Cake's relationship in these chapters was the paradox of absolutely, loving kindness, and alternately their seemingly constant fractiousness.

When Janie notices Nunkie hanging around Tea Cake, flirting, she becomes instantly jealous and hates the idea of Tea Cake being with another woman. When she finally confronts Tea Cake, Janie is so overwhelmed by her emotions that she resorts to "trying to beat him, and Tea Cake kept holding her wrists and wherever he could to keep her from going too far." Their argument is incredibly heated and both are shouting at the other. Yet this turns into passion and Janie understands Tea Cake's complete devotion to her.

Similarly, when Mrs. Turner's brother stops by the muck and appears to be following Mrs. Turner's intentions for him to marry Janie, Tea Cake becomes uncharacteristically violent in beating her briefly, "not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him." Both Janie and Tea Cake are shown to be completely loyal to the other through the omniscient narration, and for the majority of the time, they both appear to have faith in the integrity of their love for one another. So originally it seems odd that both would resort to berating and physically harming the other in order to maintain their hold.

However I think that these occurrences belie Hurston's message about the type of love that can truly make a person happy and aid their self-discovery. Throughout Janie's relationship with Tea Cake, she has been infused with an increasing amount of passion and spontaneity. When they first met, Janie was somewhat coy with the amount of time she spent with Tea Cake, but after their midnight fishing, and especially their marriage, Janie seems to be letting go of all of her inhibitions that society and particularly Joe Starks instilled in her.

By allowing herself to feel passionate emotions and act on them, Janie is continuing her self-discovery. She physically harms Tea Cake and is willing to raise her voice in disagreement and critique of him. Yet she still has her deep love for Tea Cake. If Janie can stand up to someone she loves, then she can certainly stand up to society and thus Hurston completes Janie's self-growth. Once Janie can have these extreme conflicts and remain sure of herself and her love of and from Tea Cake, she has clearly become an independent, self-reliant person as opposed to the shell-like waif who obeyed Joe Starks's every command and hid her hair - which symbolizes her personality and uniqueness - from the world.

I included this picture - mostly because it was funny - but also because when I was looking for a picture os a couple fighting, this came up and I thought it reflected the somewhat comical fights between Janie and Tea Cake. They seem to erupt into arguments multiple times since Hurston says"still and all, jealousies arouse now and then on both sides" but they are random (like this picture) and in between there is an exorbitant amount of love between the two...I'm not sure if the woman in the picture would feel the same after, but its close enough.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

God's Role

Just the title of the book alone suggests that God plays an important role in the novel. As the book progresses, this idea of God is repeated often. It is especially emphasized as the book nears the end. The first line that caught my eye was "six eyes were questioning God" (159). This line appears when the storm is beginning. Everyone is panicking and worried about the hurricane. They are questioning God because God is supposedly the one who created the storm. It is important to note that they are "questioning" God. Later, it says "They seemed to be starring in the dark, but their eyes were watching God" (160). Here, Hurston uses the word "watching" instead. There is a difference between questioning and watching. When one questions, one is usually skeptical. When the six eyes question God they are most likely questioning why this storm is coming and if there is a reason. They know it will be destructive, so is it possible God has a reason for bringing it? Later, tough, they are simply watching God. At this time they have no choice but to watch and see what God does. They cannot control the storm, so they can only hope and watch it pass.

This relates to how Janie sees her life. At first she is independent and a somewhat strong women, especially for her time. She wants to choose who she marries and even leaves her first husband. At this time in history this is unusual and shows that Janie is extremely independent. This is the time when she is questioning God. She is skeptical of Him, and still believes that she has control over her life. As the novel progresses I saw a change in Janie. She began to be less independent, especially once she married Tea Cake. Tea Cake treats her better than her other two husbands, but he still has control within their marriage. As the novel continues Janie stops questioning God and starts watching Him instead. She begins to think that she does not have control over her life; after the storm and Tea Cake dies she is lead to believe that everything is up to God. All she can do is watch.

Although these are the main points where I saw God make an appearance in the novel, there are certainly many more. Janie says multiple times in the novel that people go once it is their time. This again is up to God, and is certaintly seen with Joe and Tea Cake's death. Also, when Janie testifies at court after shooting Tea Cake she must "swear to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. So help her God" (187). Throughout the novel there are many points in which God is mentioned, not just in the title.

Theme: Self-Fulfillment

I finished TEWWG!!! Sorry, just had to start this off with my excitement of finishing. The end was thoroughly entertaining. If you haven't finished it yet, don't read this...

Now that I have finished, I want to reflect what I believe to be a major theme of the novel. This being that one needs to find equality and have their freedom in order to gain self-fulfillment. Janie finds this with Tea Cake. Her past two husbands were controlling and forced Janie to live life the way they saw best fit for a wife. Immediately Tea Cake proves to Janie to consider women equal to men. Tea Cake and Janie get married and move to the Everglades. She finds true happiness their. She wants to take care of Tea Cake. She finds herself expressing jealously. Janie realizes that she truly found love with Tea Cake. She is allowed to take part in conversation and stories, wear her hair down, etc. She feels free from her previous self, the Janie who was controlled and miserable. She reaches self-fulfillment with each passing day in the muck with Tea Cake.

When the hurricane hits, the two lovers undergo the natural disaster together. Both worried on loosing each other. Tea Cake saves Janie from a wild dog, getting bit in the face. Later, Tea Cake gets sick and the doctor realizes that his symptoms are showing that the dog was mad. Tea Cake too grows mad and Janie fears the thing growing inside of him. She hopes for the best, not yet ready for her love to leave her. But she realizes their is no hope and in an act of self defense and mercy, she kills him with his rifle. The act of murder she committed to her was not murder. She needed to relieve him from pain. Even though Tea Cake dies, Janie still feels self-fulfilled. It is better to have once had, then to never have had all. Janie recognizes this. So when she recalls her story to Pheoby she keeps this in mind. She knows Tea Cake is present, brighting up the room. Near the end the narrator states, "Of course he wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finally finished feeling and thinking..." (193). So Tea Cake lives on and so does Janie. After traveling along her journey, trying to find the right way to live, she reaches her destination. She reaches not only love, but more importantly true freedom and bliss. In her own way, Janie found what Nanny truly wanted her to have, freedom. And Janie found what she wanted to have, self-fulfillment. 


So what I wrote above is what I feel like is one theme, I'm not sure if I agree 100% though. I feel that Tea Cake was a big leap forward from Janie's past two husbands, but I still feel like he had control over her. An example of Tea Cake's control is when he says, "Ah didn't whup Janie 'cause she done nothin'. Ah beat her tuh show dem Turners who is boss" (148). He feels that he has control over Janie. I feel like Tea Cake himself was searching for self-fulfillment. I just don't know if he was reaching it. Despite the fact that I believe Tea Cake is controlling, Janie feels equal and that's why she is fulfilled. Any input? 

Also, my picture is supposed to be the "Evening Sun" - what Janie kept referring to Tea Cake as at the end. Ignore the random words on the picture...

Setting & Location: The store

In “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” there have been many different locations, but one that keeps coming up is the town store. The town store is the center of town, where everything goes on. Everyone gets their food there and most men come and sit outside to gossip. The town store is kind of like home base for Eatonville, it’s the popular place to be. Janie works at this town store, but seems not to enjoy it much.

Whenever Janie references the store or thinks about it, it always has a negative light to it. In a way the store is kind of like imprisonment for Janie. She is forced to work there by Joe and she is always being blazoned of her mistakes in front of the townspeople by him. He tends to demean her because she is a woman when she messes up or doesn’t do something up to his standards at the store. Joe kind of puts her in the store to keep her out of his hair because he is petulant with her. He keeps her from partaking in events and talking with the other townspeople at the store. For an example when the towns people start to use “a side of the world for a canvas, Joe would hustle her off inside the store to sell something” (54). Janie hated how Joe always demands her to the store that “she had come to hate the inside of that store” and “the store itself kept her with a sick headache” (54). Another thing that Janie hated about the store was she was forced to keep her hair tied up. When it comes to the store for Janie, the tone of the story becomes kind of depressing and gloomy because she looks at it with hatred.

The store is not depressing for all, just for Janie. Most people enjoy the town store. It’s kind of the place to be when there are no events going on in town. The men like to sit out on the porch and talk about everything. In particular they like to gossip. The men also like to play checkers there too. Joe Starks, when he is there, is always friendly to all the customers. Overall, the town store is kind of like the towns hangout spot. When it comes to others besides Janie, the town store brings a brighter mood to the story. Everyone jokes around and has a good time. The tone of the story is different when certain characters are mentioned at the store.

Characterization: Joe Starks

In chapters one through five, a lot of characters have been introduced. One in particular that sticks out to me is Joe Starks. Joe Starks, even though he is colored, he is a man of power. He knows how to manipulate people and therefore he gains power. People in Eatonville recognize this power that he has. On page 47, the men discuss that “there was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town. It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter. His bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he was more literate than the rest. Something else made men give way before him. He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible.” I believe that the town’s people are intimidated and maybe jealous of Joe because he has gained so much authority. In the end, Joe Starks is a salutary addition to the town because he has great leadership skills.

Other than Joe being in control, he is also very determined. He was determined to get Janie to run off with him. Janie ended up running away from her first husband and marrying Joe. He was determined to be a man of great influence in this new town he was going to. He ameliorated the town and built it up and is now mayor. Joe Starks is a very determined man, and when he wants something he usually gets it. When Joe wanted more land for Eatonville, he went over and got more land from Cap’n Eaton. His willpower has built up Eatonville and his reputation.

The way Joe Starks acts and says things also shows the type of person he is. For an example on page 29, when Joe says “you behind a plow! You ain’t got no mo’ business wid uh plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday” shows that Joe is a gentleman. He thinks that a woman should not have to do all the work around the land. Another example of Joe being a gentleman is when Janie sneaks off with him and he helps her up into the carriage. Now I do think Joe means good, but he can sometimes be demeaning, such as the time he did not even give Janie the chance to make a speech when she was asked to. He is also very committed to this dream of his and he avoids the fact that it can be a strain on him and Janie. Overall though, I think Joe Sparks presents himself with great aplomb and has good intentions so far in the story.

reaction to Peer post

In the beginning chapter of Their Eyes were Watching God, I would like to agree with Katie that Hurston uses such language that is so well written. My favorite line in chapter one, is also a line that Katie mentioned, it was “An envious heart makes a treacherous ear” (5). This line could not have been said better any other way. People who are jealous of others tend to pin point the flaws in others. This statement does show reality in so many ways, like Katie has mentioned. I personally like this line from the story because as I sat there and read it, a million different situations were flying through my head. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down and listened to others say this and that about someone else. In reality this person talking about someone else is very jealous of the other person. I think that this line really gets through to readers the type of situation Hurston was trying to explain.

Another point that Katie brought up was stereotyping. When I was reading this line, I honestly had no thoughts of stereotyping crossing through my mind. But now that she has mentioned it, I see where she is coming from, but I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that this line proves the stereotype of blacks false. I do agree that “An envious heart makes a treacherous ear” is an intelligent statement, but just because she says one thing intelligently does that really make her intelligent? Does that really make all blacks intelligent just because she said one thing intelligent? For all we know she could have overheard someone else say it and she just reiterated the words.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reaction to Rachel's Post

Rachel posted about the symbolism of mules in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I agree with her perspectives as to how the mule symbolizes the poor treatment of women, how women are portrayed as property, and how the mule connects both of Janie's marriages. However, she failed to include how this was typical of the time and connected to Hurston's own personal experiences. In using the mule, Hurston connects her storyline to real life Eatonville and her own personal experiences. For example, as a child, Hurston was forced to work, as well as obey any and all rules set by her parents; she can relate to what it feels like to be a mule. She has been forced to do things she would rather not. Hurston's own emotions directly correlate to those of Janie when being forced to marry Logan. Hurston's use of the mule also connects to her studies in anthropology. According to, Hurston actively tied anthropology into her writings. Anthropology is the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind ( The mule was commonly used in the south for both labor and transportation. This cultural reference simulates her real life upbringings as well as transcends to a deeper meaning, connecting to the maltreatment of women. In addition, Hurston also tried to connect folklore of the south into her work. A mule was the main character of a children's tale in South Carolina called The Talking Mule. (For a copy of the folklore visit this website: ) The attitude of the mule in this story parallels that of the southern women; they longed for a break, were thought to be crazy by men, and were thought to not have opinions. Hurston's efforts to draw from not only experience, but the stories and works of others, are what give her work so much more meaning than its superficial value. Hurston did not merely include the mule for symbolic reference to her characters.

Joe Starks vs. Townsfolk

So I know alot of people have talked about Joe Starks and his actions as mayor of Eatonville. Something I found interesting was the obvious difference in the town between Joe and the other men. Joe marches in, commands their attention and orders them around like he owns the place, when in reality, he has no given right to. To these men, the more you have, the more powerful you are. They recognized that Joe had the resources available to expand and make their town better, and therefore, they bowed down to him. The townsmen do not want to give in, but they don't see another way around it. Sam Weston says, "You kin feel the switch in his hand when he's talkin' to yuh" (49). This is a clear reference to slavery, and how Joe Starks acts like an overseer to the townsfolk. He doesn't physically hurt them in any way, but his voice and actions demand their cooperation and respect, whether they want to give it or not.

For this reason, the men feel inferior and unable to truly stand up against Joe. When Joe takes away Henry Pitt's wagonful of ribbon cane, the men hold different opinions on the issue. Sim Jones immediately proclaimed that, "it's uh sin and uh shame runnin' dat po' man way from here lak dat" (48). Sim Jones, clearly in dissension with Joe, recognizes that Starks was ruling with an iron fist, and that the common townsperson can't hide from it. In his opinion, a man should be able to keep his crop and be rpoud of it, instead of having it swept out from underneath him before he knows what had happened. Sam Weston, in a conversation with Sim Jones, says that you might as well, "give the devil his due" (49). Sam Weston believes that Joe Starks naturally resides over them, regardless of whether they want him to or not, and they might as well accept it. He thinks that you should work within the conditions you are given and be happy with that. Either way, Sim Jones still believes in equality of the people in the town, and that nobody should be so high and mighty above the rest. He says, " Colored folks oughtn't tuh be so hard on one another" (48). In his opinion, everyone in Eatonville should treat others as they want to be treated.

In reality, the town is stuck in a vicious circle with Joe Starks right in the middle.

"They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things,
and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down
to him" (50)

Basically, Joe Starks was who he was because the residents of Eatonville allowed him to be that way. Had they hindered him in the beginning, then they wouldn't be in such a mess. Because of their own actions, they have become subservient members of society. They continue to suffer, not so silently, because to them, this is how things are, and once things get a certain way, you can't change them back.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Language Appreciation & Interpretation

“You changes everything but nothin’ don’t change you” (86)

This quote is from when Janie is finally being honest with Joe when he is sick in bed. I liked this quote because it shows how she noticed his stubbornness underneath what he shows everyone else. He was constantly trying to change things into what he wanted them to be. He worked almost all of his life to make Eatonville into a great town that he could be in charge of. He also wanted Janie to be the wife that he wanted. He tried to make her submissive to him and happy with what he gave her. Despite trying to change so much, Joe would never change himself. He had his mind set on what he wanted and what he thought was right and wouldn’t try to change or accept other people challenging him. Janie was finally letting all of her frustration out to Joe that she hadn't voiced before then. Even at the very end of his life, Joe still wouldn't listen and refused to change.

I also liked this quote because it can describe many people. Many people will try and change things just like Joe, but won't listen to what other people say to them or accept that they may not be right. This can also apply to more than just people changing or changing things. This quote can describeany time that someone is constantly doing something to other things or others but refuse to accept it when it comes their way. It seems like a nicer way of calling someone a hypocrite.

Characterization of Joe Stark

At the beginning, Joe Stark seemed like a genuinely good man. He was kind to Janie and had his big dream to be an influential man. He appeared to want to take care of Janie and treat her well. Later when he got to the town, he seemed to be a little different. He appeared to be arrogant with all of his wealth. Since everyone else in the town was not well off, he was able to easily take over with no one to oppose him. The power seemed to go to his head and he didn’t seem like the same genuinely good man.

It seems like he is flashing his wealth around to all of the people in the town with his possessions and positions. He builds a large house that he won’t move into until it’s been painted and even has the two spit vases for him and Janie. Even though he has all of that wealth, it isn’t necessary for him to display it so much to everyone to show how different he is from them. He also holds all of the important positions in the town, like store owner, mayor, and post master instead of giving other people the opportunity to hold them. Using all of these methods, Joe seems to maintain the power in the town. No one else holds those positions or wealth, so they don’t have the confidence to go against him even if they wanted to.

He also seems to think that he is benefiting Janie more than he actually is. She also gets most of the same reputation as he does through being his wife, but she doesn’t seem to appreciate it as much as he does. Though he means well with everything, it doesn’t seem to be received in the same manor.

Setting & Location

The setting of the novel is crucial to the story. The first chapter takes place in Eatonville, an all black community in the South during the 1930s. Because of this, all of the characters in this chapter are African American. Also, since this is the town that Janie grew up in, all of the people there already know her and what she used to be like. The houses and way of life that the setting describes make up most of this chapter. The women gather in the evenings after cooking dinner for their families and gossip. The fact that all the women know each other and most of what goes on to everyone in the area shows how tight knit their town is. The time period is evident through how the wives don’t work and cook for their families.

The calm evening of the first chapter also helps to set the mood. With the women all gossiping on a porch as they usually do, and Janie’s return home, it seems to be a calm change from the norm of what usually occurs in that town. The mood for a story to be told is set when Janie is sitting on her porch calmly with Phoebe.

Characterization of Jody

Jody is a powerful man and he has a particular effect on people. It is said that "there was something about Joe Sparks that cowed the town. It was not because of physical fear. He was not the fist fighter.His bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he was more literate than the rest. Something else made men give way before him. he had a bow down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible.(47)" Jody's confidence is what is so imposing about him. His sense of material entitlement arouses jealousy and resentment from the town. However, one sees later on that Jody is in fact insecure. He makes Janie tie up her hair because of the attention she gets for it. However, he cannot admit this because it shows insecurity and "he never said things like that. It just wasn't him (55)." Jody thinks that he owns Janie and he does not want any other men admiring her hair. He does not really love her, but rather enjoys possessing a wife who is as beautiful as Janie is.


Zora Neale Hurston's background has a heavy influence on many parts of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black town in the United States. It's probably just a coincidence that Janie spends the majority of the novel in Eatonville. OK, I'm kidding. Obviously, Hurston's baclground affects the setting. Hurston lived in a white-dominated world , but one that was full of hope for blacks. Eatonville is the manifestation of this: In the real world and in the novel, blacks gained new freedom and prosperity in the new the new town.

Hurston must have faced many challenges on her way to becoming a successful author. She was the only black student at Howard University. Obviously, she did not become successful by luck. It took hard work and determination. This fighting spirit is present in the characters of the novel. Joe works extremely hard to prove to himself that black people can succeed and be powerful citizens. He does it for the wrong reasons and goes about it in the wrong ways, but the spirit is undeniably there. Janie does not give up on her dream, either. She resists her two husbands' attempts to destroy her dream of love and equality.

Hurston was fiercely protective of black culure; we can see this from her collections of African American Folklore and her political attitudes. She wanted to do justice to the struggle of all black Americans, and she did so in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston wrote a novel where racism and white dominance is always a subtle but strong force. By doing so, she payed homage to her struggle and the struggle of those in a similar situation.

Being a woman was also an important influence on Hurston's novel. Hurston no doubt experienced sexism during her life. Her story of a woman being oppressed but in the end becoming empowered and fulfilling her dreams pays tribute to that side of her life, as well.

White Power

Zora Neale Hurston lived in a world where for the most part, whites dominated blacks and had much more societal power. This influence shows through in Their Eyes Were Watching God. OK, this post is about a theme, not author background, so I'll get on with it.

At least through chapter 10, white people are something of an unseen force in the novel. Nevertheless, the dominance of whites over blacks is an ubiquitous theme. On the first page of the novel, Hurston reeferences the "bossman", a presumably white power figure who controls the residents of Eatonville during the day. Eatonville itself was a novelty as the first all-black town in the U.S. This fact underscores the difficulty that blacks had in Hurston's time.
In the novel, not just being white but having white characteristics gives one power. Janie herself has white characteristics that give her something of an edge in the society of the time. Janie's mother was half white and was herself raped by a white man. Ironically, this disgusting display of white dominance instills some power in Janie. She is born with light skin and straight hair. Joe is attracted to her for this reason; he sees her as a way to display his own power because she has white traits. Because of these traits, she becomes an influential citizen of Eatonville.
Racism is always present in this novel. The characters struggle to gain indpendence, but are always held back by the fact that they are black, not white. Racism is not a good aspect of any society, but white dominance certainly is an important theme in the novel and in the society of Hurson's day

Vergible Woods: Knight in Shining Armor

From the start, Tea Cake is portrayed as a sharp contrast to Janie's previous husbands and the male callers in her town. He is intelligent, confident, and well-mannered, but in addition he treats women as equals. Tea Cake shows Janie respect when he challenges her to a checkers game:

". . .she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play" (96).

This first little act shows that Tea Cake isn't blinded by the same female stereotypes accepted by other men like Logan Killicks or Joe Starks. This could be a sign of his age, possibly suggesting he comes from a younger generation, or else it is just an admirable personality trait.

Tea Cake also appears to be a real gentlemen. He is careful not to "wrench a lady's fingers" (96), when the two are playing checkers, he buys Janie a drink, and later on when he walks her home "he tipped his hat at the door and was off with the briefest good night" (99). He doesn't pressure her like the rest of the men in Eatonville about moving on and needing a man.

I think this relationship with Tea Cake is going to be a good stepping stone for Janie in better understanding herself and in becoming a more independent woman.


Zora Neale Hurston encorperates elements of her background into Their Eyes Were Watching God. A few of the more obveous ones are Nanny and Janie's love of freedom. Janie is raised by her grandmother, Nanny, because her mom became an alchoholic and left. Nanny acted as a mother figure for Janie's whole childhood. Hurston's grandmother also lived with her and her family and acted motherly towards Hurston. In her autobiography Hurston recalls that it was her grandmother who scolded her for hitching rides down the road with white people. Hurston's grandmother is reflected in Hurston's character, Nanny.

Zora Neale Hurston's love of freedom is apparent from a very early age. As a child she would sit on her fence and catch rides with white people as they drove down the rode. Later in life she took pride in wearing pants instead of skirts and smoking in public, all of which almost unheard of at the time. Also, just being a part of the Harlem Rennisance showes that Hurston does not adhere to social rules. Hurston is happy to be free of the social guidelines that are placed upon her as an African American woman.mJanie expresses her love of freedom in the end of chapter nine. She says to her friend Pheoby, "'Tain't dad Ah worries over Joe's death, Pheoby. Ah jus' loves dis freedom" (93). This excerpt expresses Janie's relief that she is finally free of men, having lost her second husband. Both Hurston and Janie are very independent women who have a common love for freedom.

Both Hurston and Janie also have several marriages. Hurston had several marriages, all of which ended for various reasons, just like Janie who has so far had two marriages end and the first chapter of the novel gives the reader the idea she will marry Tea Cake and that will end too.

Zora Neale Hurston encorperates herself into her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God through Janie.

Chillin' on The Porch: Hurston's use of Porches as a Motif

In almost every chapter of this book thus far, there has been someone who has lazed on a porch chatting the day away. In the beginning it was the ladies gossiping about Janie's return. Later it was Sam, Lige, and Walter ridiculing Matt Bonner. And after that it was the gathering point for Janie's suitors. All of these times the porch is serving as a place where the citizens of Eatonville can gather and socialize. Janie is never directly involved in any of these gatherings but is usually a spectator and not a contributor to the conversation.
These scenes promote Hurston's theme of Janie as a special character in the society of Eatonville. She is set apart and in some cases made to be inferior by Joe and the rest of the citizens of Eatonville. The women at the beginning were also talking behind her back and gossiping about her which also shows that Janie is somewhat of an outcast. This helps Hurston develop the idea of Janie as someone who is more enlightened than the rest of Eatonville. Evidenced by her eventual standing up for herself against Joe as well as her initial interest in Tea Cake. Throughout the novel so far, the porch has been a place where the "in" crowd gathers, and seems to be a major setting in the novel.

Symbol: mule

The mule is a symbol that is repeated throughout the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Nanny tells Janie that "woman is de mule uh de world." Mules are animals that are bought to do labor. Similarly, throughout the novel Jodie is "bought" by different men. The motif of a mule is repeated to show that women are not treated well. They are treated like animals instead.
The first time a mule appears in the novel is during Janie's marriage to Logan. She marries Logan because she seems to have no other choice, much like a mule has no choice when he is bought. Soon Logan commands that Janie help him do the plowing, and he leaves to by a second mule that she can handle. Logan is degrading towards Janie and treats her like his possession, not like a wife.
The symbol of a mule appears again during Janie's marriage to Joe. During this time a man in town, Matt Bonner, buys a mule that he works to death. Janie protests and so her husband, Joe, buys the mule from Matt. Again, the mule symbolizes Joe's ownership of Janie. Joe is constantly putting down Janie in front of the other men in town. When Janie finally stands up for herself, it causes havoc and ruins her marriage even more than it already was.
The mule is Hurston's way of showing that women should be treated better. They are not animals that can be bought to do labor. I am interested to see what happens with Janie and Tea Cake and see if the mule motif shows up again.

A Crushed Dream - IT'S REALITY

Janie's spontaneous decision doesn't turn out so great after all... Her new life with Joe in the all black town has not been exactly what Janie dreamed of. At first she admired Joe's own dream of becoming a big voice in the new black community but once in power Janie feels uncomfortable with her life. Their is no spark in their love, nothing like when Joe first met Janie and he spoke in rhymes that would woo her. In her new life she no longer dreams, she has become a woman and the wife of a powerful mayor. Joe being busy and all does not have time to make his wife happy but he does make her special. Janie never wanted to be special. Everything that the town folks does Janie is not permitted because she is the mayor's wife and she cannot be seen among the townsfolk doing unmannerly type things. She feels like she's being caged up in a town and being treated like she's better than everyone else. I think more than anything she just wants to be a part of the town and live her own life the way she wants to instead of being the pretty mayor's wife who works the town store and post office everyday except Sundays. Later in chapter 6 Janie realizes she doesn't love Joe and this is not her dream. "Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just some thing she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over," (pg 72). Joe had slapped Janie into this epiphany when she had cooked a below average meal that furiated him. She realizes she only went with Joe in the first place to see what it would be like but he was not actually the dream she always wanted. She then realizes her dream is not dead and that the feelings that she has is not for Joe but "for some man she had never seen," (pg 72).

Janie's life Before and After Joe

Between Chapters 1 and 10 the reader sees Janie in two different lights. In the first half she is docile and allows herself to be dominated first by Nanny and then by Joe. She stays in the shadows. Hurston writes " The years took all the fight out of Janie's face. For awhile she thought it was gone from her soul. ". This quote shows that she is hiding her internal feeling within herself and is not speaking what she feels. Even when Janie ran away with Joe this was a rebellious act but it was influenced by Joe's seduction and how he dominated her emotions. Until his death Joe continued to stringently rule Janie and steal freedom.
When Joe dies the reader notices a change in Janie. She refuses to remarry and guards herself. When she wants she sits on the porch and speaks her mind. As Hurston writes in chapter 8 page 90 Janie wants her jewel to shine. She no longer wants it to be caked over with mud and buried. Janie admits to Phoebe that she is not upset that Joe died. She likes her freedom and at the end of chapter 10 it looks like Janie plans on staying free and away from the dominance of others

Blast From the Past! (?)-dream life

In chapter 2-5 I was able to understand a little more about Janie's past when she spoke to Phoebe about her childhood and previous marriages. I learned how she had an abnormal childhood, one without parents and being raised by a single grandmother. During her teens she lived in West Florida with her grandmother, who bought a house just for the two of them. Janie spent most of her time outside "under a blossoming pear tree in the back-yard," (page 10). I realized how creative, imaginative and inspirational she was at such a young age. She embraced the beauty of the pear tree and it's surroundings. I liked how she described the buzzing bees around the tree and how she wanted bees of her own that would devoted their life to nurturing her- "Oh to be a pear tree- any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world!" (pg 11). She began to fantasize about love, experimenting with a boy named Johnny Taylor. From observation, marriage between a man a woman seemed to induce love so Janie wondered. She wondered if marrying a man will instantly produce ever-lasting love then she will have it.

Unfortunately, Janie felt that her childhood ended at the age of 16 when her grandmother was dying and she urged her to marry a man that Janie did not love but she accepted because she believed the marriage would be the solution. She quickly realized that the man she married was not the one for her and in chapter 5 she gets a second chance for a dream life. Joe Starks, a wandering man walked by her road and instantly Janie felt an attraction. The man was kind and made her feel like a real woman so she happily left her husband to start a new life with Joe. I feel like Janie is an independent woman and only does what she wants and what makes her happy. I would even go as far as calling her selfish because she disregards all of her previous husband's feelings by leaving him without a clue to where she was going. She is certainly not held back by society's opinions about her race especially when those closest to her tell her about black women being the least respected. She does not care about her husbands money and is not afraid to leave everything behind for a man she hardly knows.

Internal Conflict Rooted in Parental Expectations

In Chapter 2, after Nanny has seen Janie kiss Johnny, she is furious. Nanny was born a slave and was never respected as a human or a woman. She was raped by her master and never had much security in her life. This is why Nanny is so disapproving when she sees that Janie is interested in a boy that can't offer her much in life. She says she "don't want no trashy nigger, no breath-and-britches, lak Johnny Taylor usin' yo' [Janie's] body to wipe his foots on. (13)" She wants Janie to marry a man who will appreciate her as a wife and will offer he security, something Nanny never had.
We can see how these expectations to be secure conflict with Janie's free spirit later on, when she is married to Jody. Jody offers Janie a huge amount of security, but he domineers her. He makes her tie her hair up while she is working in the store. Janie's hair is her most distinctive feature and defines her physical appearance. By making Janie tie her hair up, Jody making Janie suppress her free spirit in an effort to make her more conventional. Janie stays in this relationship because she loved Nanny and wants to live the way Nanny would have wanted her too.
This dynamic is similar to that between Biff and Willy in Death of a Salesman. Willy sets up expectations of who Biff should be and the way he should live his life. He wants Biff to work a white collar job, play the game, and achieve levels of success that Willy never could. However, these expectations are in contrast with the tangible work outside that Biff seeks for his vocation. This sets up an internal conflict for Biff in which he cannot decide to pursue his own desires or to live out the dreams of his father.