Thursday, March 5, 2009
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.