“Their Eyes were Watching God”: Feminism and the Embracement of Self Love

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“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”- Bell Hook. This definition is the embodiment of the feminist revolution, which is very prominent in the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. In the novel the main character, Janie, is essentially on a journey to find her true self. Janie is an attractive, confident, middle-aged black woman, who returns to Eatonville after leaving for a long time. She experiences her first loss of innocence and taste of adulthood when her grandmother finds a much older farmer named Logan Killicks and insists that Janie marry him.

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The downside of this is that when Janier moves in with Logan, Janie is miserable. She doesn’t love Logan which causes her to suffer while with him. After this Janie gets married a second time to a man who she doesn’t fully love, but is better than Logan. Janie realizes that this is a mistake because Jody starts to emotionally abuse her in order to gain dominance. Jody craves this dominance in order to reassure his man-hood in the society where being a “true man” gives him power. Finally, after Jody dies, Janie controversially falls in love with a man named Tea Cake who seems to truly love her and not just want to use her. This also turns out to be a mistake because as time passes Tea Cake turns out to be abusive and manipulative just like the other men who she was married to. In the end Janie feels at peace with herself after she is free from Tea Cake and all men. In the novel Hurston, establishes the dynamic between gender, power and sexism through various parallelisms that the main character experiences to reveal how an embracement of self love and feminism leads to independence and the breaking of the dependence on men and external love.

Hurston uses the parallelism of One of the most important parallelisms is between speech and silent which is the equivalent of power and oppression. Hurston establishes that speech gives a person power and silence causes one to be oppressed through Janie and her passive nature, Hurston takes Janie on a journey to find her voice resulting in her finding her own power in a world dominated by men. Hurston writes “Jamie stood still while they all made comments. When it was all done she said…”(Hurston 38). This reveals Janie is powerless because while everyone is talking she does not get to use her voice. Janie’s inability to use her voice is strictly rooted from her being a women. Which Hurston makes clear in order to reveal how the societal norms of sexism which are detrimental to Janie and other women with her. If Jaine is not in the conversation she will not be able to achieve dominance or power over the people in her society. She does not get to talk until after the people with power make the final decision about what is going to happen next. The fact that they make the final decision reveals that they have the ability to direct and influence the actions of the others around them. With this ability they are able to control Janie and her future actions. Hurston directly includes this control mechanism to reveal the particular lack of power that Jaine has stemming from her gender. This ultimately brings in the sexism aspects of the novel since it is being written from a feminist perspective. This feminist perspective allows the reader to analyze the true reason why Janie acts passively which is a culmination of societal norms and a lack of self awareness.

Furthermore, Hurston includes the a dynamic of love vs independence to reveal how true feminism does not need love from another man, it only requires self love. In Janie’s life she seems to be commanded and dominated by the man she is with. Logan dominated her by forcing her to work like a “mule”, “choppin’ wood… slingin’ chips lak uh man” (Hurtson 26). This reveals how Janie is being controlled by the “partner” in the relationship. As the female in the situation, Janie is forced to succumb to the man and be controlled by him, which is against feminism. The irony in this particular situation deepens the struggle that Janie experiences. She is expected to work “lak a man” but she does not get the power that men have in this society, arguably making her life worse than it actually is. Additionally, Hurston asses the meaning of marriage in general to make the claim that personal growth does not necessarily mean that one should participate in standard societal agenda. Hurston writes that Janie realizes that “marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a women” (Hurston 25) This conveys the false notion that Janie was given that marriage seals the love that a person has for someone. Marriage is known to be an adult action which is a significant turning point in Janie’s life. Hurston specifically includes this because it leads to her future being broken as she says her dream is “dead”. The most important part of this is that this happens because Janie is forced to be in a marriage that she would not otherwise be in. The independence aspect comes into play when Janie is by herself at the end of the novel and she finds fulfilment in herself. At the end of her long journey of life “the tiredness[of life] was finally gone” (Hurston 192). This reveals that she reaches a point of independence is best for her. This dynamic brings Hurston’s claim full circle because Janie learns that love is not directly stemmed from a man, which eventually leads to her loving herself.

Overall, the embracement of self love and independence through harsh and cruel experiences makes a claim for all females, even those who are not abused like Janie. Women everywhere have to fulfill their feminist journey in order to truly be liberated form a society where male dominance reigns supreme. She liberates herself from her unfulfilling relationships with Joe, Logan and Tea Cake who all try to stop her from her intimate feminist journey. In the end she prevails which allows the reader to see that feminist power is stronger than any societally inherited dominance that men have over her.

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“Their Eyes Were Watching God”: Feminism and the Embracement of Self Love. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/their-eyes-were-watching-god-feminism-and-the-embracement-of-self-love/