With Pain Comes Strenght
“In literature as in life, there are situations where people must experience pain to grow from within. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie, a black women in the south during the early 1900’s is in search for fulfillment in life. Janie is taught that this fulfillment is through marriage and love; this sends her upon a long quest in search for this love and happiness. Time and time again Janie had been deceived by people and mistaken love for lust and experiences many hardships on this journey. Through each and every one of her past relationships, Janie experiences acts of aggression and cruelty by the dominating male figure. All the hardships and cruelty end once she meets a man named Tea Cake. Tea Cake is the love of her life and who she has been searching for all this time. After an incident leading to Tea Cakes death Janie is lost again and is facing the same cruelty but this time not from a man, but from God. Janie is upset and frustrated at all those people who were aggressive towards her and cruel to her; until she realizes that these acts of aggression towards her allowed her to grow and blossom into the woman she has become. These acts of aggression and cruelty towards Janie display the theme that aggression can cause realization and motivation that leads to growth from within; this is shown with Logan, Joe, and God.
Logan Killicks was the first man Janie ever married, and therefore Janie’s first chance to grow. Janie was forced into marriage with Logan due to Janie’s nanny, and although Janie does not love Logan, she keeps up with him because of the belief that in time she will find this happiness she is longing for in life. Throughout this relationship, Janie and Logan have many fights; these altercations often end up with Logan threatening Janie with many things like leaving or hurting her. This is one of the first examples of Janie facing acts of aggression, and she sees this as common because she doesn’t know anything else. It is also seen throughout the marriage that Logan talks to Janie very “Harshly” (Hurston 31) and uses other words that describe aggressive behavior by Logan. During one argument between the two Logan shows his cruelty and aggression by saying to Janie “Don’t you change too many words wid me dis mawnin’, Janie, do He’ll take and change ends wid yuh! Heah, Ah just as good as take you out de white folks’ kitchen and set you down on yo’ royal diasticutis and you take and low-rate me! Ah’ll take holt uh dat ax and come in dere and kill yuh!” (Huston 31). Logans aggressive outburst on Janie shows that she faces cruelty on a regular basis in many forms. Logan is incredibly cruel towards Janie; he threatens to kill her with an ax and yells at her for not wanting to help in the field. All of this aggression and cruelty builds Janie’s character and draws her to the idea of fleeing. All this aggression and cruel behavior allows Janie to realize and grow to become a tougher individual as it begins to mold her into the strong woman she becomes. Logans aggression towards Janie sparks an awakening in Janie that causes her to be more defiant. Logan is a major way for Janie to grow courage because she gives her the bravery to leave him for Joe Starks; a man who is thought to be the one for Janie.
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Janie’s next opportunity to grow through pain is with Joe Starks, a man with a plan who wants Janie to come with him on his path to glory. Joe wants more than anything to become a big voice in a town, and wants Janie to be the one by his side. Janie is fooled by Joe’s smooth talk and the vibe he gives off; this causes her to follow him and makes her believe that she is in love. After years of marriage this blindness to Joe’s true self is finally gone and Janie is stuck in a worse relationship than with Logan. Janie has lost all her rights and is stuck in Eatonville until her inevitable death. Joe does not hold back from letting Janie know who’s boss and hits her on multiple occasions during their time together. One major example of his aggression is when he hits her after dinner; Joe was quite upset with Janie for her lack of effort put into that nights dinner so he hits her with all his might and leaves Janie standing there shocked. Janie after this hit is left standing for a long time just thinking and “She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it is.
It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams.” (Hurston 72). This out of body experience shows the cruelty and violence she deals with when around Joe. Janie fully understands now that this was not the love she has been searching for and has yet to find the person that makes her life fulfilled. This cruelty by Joe creates motivation from within Janie to become independent and do things for herself. Later that same day she begins to include herself in conversations between townsmen and become more outgoing, which Joe does not allow. As one can imagine, Janie involving herself leads to more cruel behavior by Joe. These multiple acts of violence by Joe Starks allows for Janie to realize what she is really looking for in life and what is needed to make herself satisfied. Because of Joe, Janie grows more than she could ever know and in a way helps her become who she is by displaying these acts upon her. Without Joe’s cruelty, Janie could have never met this person she has been on a quest to find all her life, Tea Cake.
Janie and God have a complicated relationship throughout her life; but with his cruelty, Janie is able to grow more than she knew was possible. When Janie finds happiness with Tea Cake, God strips all that away from her by destroying everything in the Muck with a hurricane, and ending up killing Janie through Tea Cake and his disease. Before Janie had to shoot Tea Cake she stood outside her home looking into the sky thinking, “But to kill her through Tea Cake was too much to bear. Tea Cake, the son of Evenings sun, had to die for loving her. She looked hard at the sky for a long time. Somewhere up there beyond the blue ether’s bosom sat He. Was He noticing what was going on around here? He must because He knew everything. Did He mean to do this to Tea Cake and her?” (Hurston 178). Janie begins to question her faith and the meaning of all the events that have happened in her life; she had been searching for over forty years for happiness and once she did, she lost it. After she had to kill Tea Cake, Janie is lost and is looking for answers as to why this happened and what she did to deserve this. God’s cruelty and aggression towards Janie allows her to realize that she has lived her life with meaning and everything happens for a reason. God gives Janie perspective and lets her look back and see how much each person has taught her and let he grow into the pear tree that she had wanted to bloom into. Although she did face aggression and cruelty, she was given realization, and motivation to grow from each hardship and violent act; because of this, Janie suddenly loses her frustration and is filled with joy and satisfaction of her life. Janie realizes and understands that she has lived a good life and she ends up not wanting to change a single thing that happened. Due to God’s “cruelty” and “aggression” she could become whole and see that these circumstances that she faced, were to teach and grow Janie, not to hurt her.
Because of Logan, Joe, and God’s acts of aggression and cruelty towards Janie display a theme that aggression causes realization and motivation which leads to growth from within. Throughout Janie’s life she faces many acts and forms of aggressive behavior and cruelty from other; this allows Janie to grow into the women she has become and gives her realization that these acts happened for this reason of helping her. After the death of Tea Cake, Janie moves back to Eatonville with satisfaction; this satisfaction allows Janie to preach her story and let others know of her journey. Due to all the hardships Janie encountered, she was able to learn and grow into a strong independent black women, in a society where “black women are the mule”. These aggressive acts and cruel moments in Janie’s life also give her the opportunity to blossom into the pear tree that she envisioned herself as when she was younger; she longed for love, happiness, and a bee to pollinate her and allow her to grow, and Janie found all of this through her relationships. At first what seemed to be hardships, ended up become pivotal lessons for Janie’s growth. Without the acts of aggression Janie was faced with, she would have never realized right from wrong, and would have never internally bloomed. Janie’s life story can be seen through almost each and every person in the world today; many do not know it, but everything does happen for a reason and these acts of aggression and cruelty that people face are chances for them to grow into their true self. Janie, just like Chris Mccandless is on an everlasting journey for fulfillment in life, which we can see was in front of them their entire lives; and just like Edna Pontellier, Janie has and awakening from within that allows her to move on from dominating male figures portrayed throughout the story. Janie is an example that even through all the ups and downs of life, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.”