Thursday, February 26, 2009

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.

1 comment:

  1. YOU STOLE MY TITLE! i was gonna say love hurts in reference to Janie shooting tea cake though...