Their Eyes were Watching God: Best for Janie

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Janie, the protagonist of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, is identified as a feminist character: “Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the acclaimed boldly feminist novels of the 20th century. In general, this article draws on feminism and what looms large in feminism which is called sexism” (Tasharofi 1). Janie is defined as an independent woman who believes in the equality of men and women but does not lead a feminist role throughout the novel.

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The men in her life is the main reason why Janie doesn’t lead her role. The hard times of her life that does not allow her to be a feminist are what makes her a model for strength of feminism.

Janie is a hopeless romantic that faces hardships while trying to find her true love. Janie’s grandmother raised her while having viewpoints that were inspired by the civil war. She is bi-racial which was a result of her mother being raped by a white man. Janie’s Grandmother has no true aspirations for her lifestyle except for her to be respectably married. Janie marries Logan Killicks because of her grandmother’s opinion and has hopes that she will learn to love him. Logan believes that women should always be a servant of the man: “Janie! Logan called harshly. “”Come help me move dis manure pile befo’ de sun gits hot. You don’t take a bit of interest in dis place. ‘Tain’t no use in foolin’ round in dat kitchen all day long” (Hurston 53). Janie’s marriage brings more forced decisions that she doesn’t agree with sometimes. Janie wants to retain her independence, but she is caught up trying to please other people. Logan wants Janie by his side working in the field because he thinks of her as a spoiled woman who gets what she wants: “”Considerin’ youse born in a carriage ‘thout no top to it, and yo’ mama and you bein’ born and raised in de white folks back-yard.””(Hurston 66). Logan seems to look down upon Janie while insinuating that she shouldn’t have independence because of the dissimilar lifestyle she has lived. She suffers while she is involved in a prolonged controlled and affectionless marriage. This behavior is perfect for Janie because it motivates her to leave town. Because she is so fed up with Logan and his dominating ways, she builds up enough courage to leave everything behind.

Janie’s second relationship with Jody Starks turns out to be more complicated and uneasy to understand despite being with Logan. Jody is a man of power that always enforces strict demands on his wife. He does not allow her to speak in public to certain groups, socialize with other men, and he insist that she must hide her hair: “He felt like rushing forth with the meat knife and shopping off the offending hand. That night he ordered Janie to tie up her hair around the store”. (Hurston 43). Although these events are taking place, she portrays to be the subservient wife Jody wants her to be: “Joe’s claim that a “”woman’s place is at home”” is a vivid example of his being the one enacting the sexual politics in his patriarchal society within his marriage with Janie.”(Tasharofi 3). Janie and Joe present strong allegations toward each other when they start attacking each other’s sexuality. This is the beginning of Janie expressing how she truly feels about Joe. “”When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life'”” (Hurston 75). Joe implies that Janie has become an old hag, while Janie insults his manhood. Janie begins talking back as she is fed up with the way she is being treated. Often when Jody gets raged, he would beat Janie. “As previously conducted studies report, domestic violence may harm women in physical and emotional terms at an important level, and affect negatively their employment status, productivity in working life, and their participation in social life” (Kizilgol 2). Domestic violence usually occurs as a result of someone wanting full control of their victim. Janie finally gains enough courage to tell Jody how she feels, but when she does, Jody dies.

Janie’s last marriage is more accepting to her lifestyle. Tea Cake is more of a match for Janie. She is for certain that this guy is the one for her since she has been through two terrible marriages. Their relationship is filled with more intellect, emotion, and physical compatibility: “They wrestled on until they were doped with their own fumes and emanations; till their clothes had been torn away; till he hurled her to the floor and held her there melting her resistance with the heat of his body, doing things with their bodies to express the inexpressible; kissed her until she arched her body to meet him and they fell asleep in sweet exhaustion”(Hurston 160). They both were overwhelmed with passion and rage which elevates to a stronger emotion that is expressed physically between the two. They shared a great relationship, but Tea cake is placed along with the other men when he asserts dominance over Janie: “Another common theme which materialized from the focus groups was the notion that men avoid help-seeking because it is associated with characteristics such as being weak and fragile.” (Campbell 3). Hurston reveals his character as a complex man that can love and show emotion while revealing how prideful men can be. Hurston uses the shooting and killing of Tea Cake to save Janie in the end, which verifies the progression of power and independence Janie has gained to become a powerful woman.

In conclusion, Janie suffers emotional and physical abuse from each man throughout her life. She suffers from domestic violence and inevitable sexism, while trying to find her true love. The goal is to put fear in her heart, maybe so she could never love again. Janie truly has defined herself through speaking out to others and standing up for what she believes is right. Hurston expresses silence in this novel to show that it can be used as an empowerment source for others who are dealing with similar situations.

Works Cited

  1. Campbell, Marcie, et al. “Engaging Abusive Men in Seeking Community Intervention: A Critical Research & Practice Priority.” Journal of Family Violence, vol. 25, no. 4, May 2010, pp. 413–422.
  2. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
  3. Kizilgol, Ozlem Ayvaz, and Evren Ipek. “An Analysis on Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey: Multinomial Logit Model.” Business & Economics Research Journal, vol. 9, no. 3, July 2018, pp. 715–734.
  4. Parmis Tasharofi. “Domestic Violence in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Feminist Reading.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, no. 4, 2014, p. 120.
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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Best for Janie. (2020, Feb 14). Retrieved from