Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Psychology Ruins Everything

After reading the first ten chapters of Their Eyes Were Watching God, I could not help but notice a distinct relationship between Janie's marriages and Robert Sternberg's Triangular Love Theory.

According to Sternberg's Triangular Love Theory, love is categorized into three main interpersonal relationships: intimacy (the ability to share personal details), passion (physical attraction), and commitment (the willingness to prioritize the relationship). Any relationship can be explained using these three points. For example, a relationship based solely on passion can be described as infatuation, a relationship based on physical attraction, whereas a relationship with both intimate and passionate qualities can be described as romantic love, a relationship where physical attraction and a trust exist, but importance in the eyes of the couple is low. To Sternberg, the perfect love, or consummate love, is a combination of all three elements of the triangle, intimacy, passion, and commitment. Consummate love is described as the ideal and complete form of love; the kind that lasts a lifetime.

When reading about Janie's multiple marriages, I found that her three love interests could be categorized using Sternberg's theory. In Janie's first marriage to Logan Killicks, she experienced empty love, or love based solely on commitment. Janie was forced to marry Logan Killicks by her Grandmother in a sort of arranged marriage-esque situation. Janie stated multiple times that she had no physical attraction to Logan; she did not share a personal connection with him; I don't believe that they even slept together, but Janie was obligated to commit to Logan. Thus their marriage could accurately be described as empty, where although the two members prioritize their relationship (the act of marriage), there is no sense of attraction or intimacy. As with most empty relationships, Janie and Logan's marriage soon failed because of their lack of the other two points for consummate love.
Then Janie progresses to her second marriage with Jody Starks. Although much better than her first marriage, Janie's second marriage was far from perfect. Janie exhibited signs of passion when she first encountered Joe; she also clearly committed to their marriage (they were married twenty plus years), but there was never any signs of intimacy within their relationship. In fact Janie blatantly stated "Ah'm just tryin' tuh make you know what kinda person Ah is" within the last few moments of their marriage together. Thus their marriage could be described, in the words of Sternberg, as fatuous love. Although Janie's second marriage developped a second element of consummate love, it still fell short of perfect love.

By using Sternberg's triangular theory and recognizing the pattern so far in Janie's marriages, I feel like it is safe to predict the next relationship between Janie and Tea Cake. If we continue to add elements of the triangular theory to each of Janie's marriage, we see that the third time is the charm. I believe that the Janie's third relationship with Tea Cake will exhibit signs of passion, intimacy, and commitment; the kind of relationship that Janie fantasized about in her childhood. In her brief introduction to Tea Cake in chapter 10, we see that Tea Cake and Janie already show signs of passion, "those lazy eyes... lean, over padded shoulders and narrow waist" and intimacy, "somebody wanted her to play, somebody thought it natural for her to play." We know that commitment of some sorts occurred because in the beginning of the novel, Janie comes back from running off with Tea Cake. So surprisingly enough, Janie does manage to obtain her dream, the perfect love that she saw between the pear tree and the bees. Perhaps Janie's external and internal conflicts will actually be resolved... (knock on wood)

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