Janie’s Progression of Life through Themes
In this book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, there are multiple recurring themes. These themes would be gender, love, and jealousy. Throughout the book we experience multiple occasions of the themes gender, love, and jealousy and we get a deeper understanding of them as we see many examples in the novel. All of these themes are expressed through Janie’s husbands or relatives.
We see that the theme of gender plays a huge role in this novel. The men tend to believe that women are less than them and that they should tell them what to do. We see this when Janie is married to Logan, and he forces her to work harder than he does. “If ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside.” (Hurston 26). “Naw I need two mules dis yeah. Taters is goin’ tuh be taters in de fall. Bringin’ big prices. Ah aims tuh run two plows, and dis man Ah’m talkin’ ‘bout is got uh mule all gentler up so even uh women kin handle ‘Im” (Hurston 27).
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These two quotes give us a perfect example of how the theme gender is played in this novel. As seen in the first quote, Logan is mad at Janie because she does not want to chop wood because that is the man’s job, even though she could do it. Logan wants her to chop wood and work as hard and if not harder than he does. As represented in the second quote, Logan is going away to get a second mule and he wants Janie to do all the work. He wants her to chop all the wood and haul it just as he does on top of what Janie already does, which is run a household and prepare meals.
At this point, Janie is working harder than Logan. Logan was not the only person who believed that he could tell the women what to do. Joe believed this as well. “De way he rears and pitches in de store sometimes when she make uh mistake is sort of ungodly” (Hurston 50) In this quote, other people are starting to notice how Joe rages when Janie messes up in the slightest way. Joe, similarly to Logan, believes that Janie should work as hard, or harder than he does. He believes that he should tell her what to do and when to do it, and if she does not, then he rages like the people are talking about in the quote.
The theme love plays a huge role in this novel as well. Throughout the entirety of the book, Janie is trying to find one true love. She soon realizes that even if you marry someone, it does not mean that you are in love. “The house was absent of flavor, too. But anyhow Janie went on inside to wait for her love to begin.” (Hurston 22). This quote takes place before Janie realizes that when you marry someone it doesn’t mean you are in love. Janie couldn’t wait to be in love and when she got married, she thought that she would automatically be in love.
She thought of love as something that just comes once your married. However, that is not the case. Love is something that comes over a long period of time with which she later finds out when she is married to Joe. “She knew now that marriage did not make love.” (Hurston 25). This quote comes after Janie had talked to Nanny. This is where Janie gets her legitimate realization of what was previously stated, that love is not made by marriage. Love is one of Janie’s major problems throughout her whole life, and she learns from her experiences.
The last recurring theme in this novel is Jealousy. “Whut make her keep her head tied up lak some ole ‘oman round de store? Nobody couldn’t git me tuh tie no rag on mah head if Ah had hair lak dat.” (Hurston 49). We mainly see the theme of jealousy in this quote when she is married to Joe and he makes her wear something to cover her hair. He does this because he is jealous that other men will see her hair and try to serenade Janie. Another big reason he does this is because all the people who come into the shop see how poorly he treats Janie sometimes so he is a bit worried people will try to win her over.
All of these themes tie together to play a major role in Janie’s life. As she progresses with her life, she is able to gain knowledge about how gender is a huge part of life back then, especially if you are a women. She is able to gain knowledge of how love really works. She is able to gain knowledge of how Joe is jealous of other men and I believe she did not get mad about having to wear something to cover her hair because she knew that it is human nature to be jealous. With all of these themes shaping Janie’s life, she is able to finally live out in peace.