Zora Neale Describes the Hardships

Category: Culture
Date added
2021/05/24
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“In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale describes the hardships that colored people have to endure as well as the problems that women faced during these times. The novel explains the events that occured in Janie’s life leading up to the point where her third husband has passed and she returns to her old town by herself. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale displays a lot of common themes that present themselves throughout the text. A few of the recurring themes that present themselves are Genderism, Racism, Voice/Silence and the Power in Relationships, Zora Neale displays these themes throughout the novel and paints an image for the reader so that the reader can experience all the hardships along with the characters. Janie’s experiences all through the novel are far from normal, she is looked down on from most people through her life and even those of the same race, because she’s a woman it’s even tougher for her because during these times women were looked down on and were thought to be stupid. Janie never new her mother or her father because her father raped her mother when she was seventeen, so she ended up having to be raised by her grandmother because her mother became a drunk right after she was born and could not even take care of herself. Before her grandmother died she married Janie off to her first husband, a black man named Logan, Janie eventually marries two other men, but in the end she ends up alone. Throughout the novel Zora Neale paints an image of the hardships that Janie had to overcome and how she changed overtime, Zora Neale’s unique writing style and her multitude of themes progressed the stories plot line by constantly shifting through different points of view and foreshadowing most of the events and what transpires.

Throughout Janie’s multiple marriages, Zora Neale really emphasized on how much those marriages changed her throughout the novel. Janie was influenced to marry her first husband after getting caught kissing a boy by her grandmother, her grandmother was worried that Janie would go down the wrong path and thought that she would be better off marrying her granddaughter off to a wealthy man with lots of property. Janie ended up being married to a black man named Logan who was decent towards her and tried to be kind to her, but no matter what he did she did not love him and felt misguided by her grandmother, she told her grandmother no matter how hard she tried she does not want him and that “some folks were never meant to be loved”(Hurston, Ch 3, 00:50:48) and he is one of those people. Janie’s lack of affection towards Logan enraged him and he ended up saying “I’ll take hold of that axe and come in there and kill you”(Hurston, Ch 4, 1:07:42).

Janie did not like her role in this toxic relationship and ended up leaving him for an ambitious man named Jody who was fairly wealthy and told her about a new town that was filled with only colored people, eventually Jody became the mayor of this town and was making an insane amount of money from the store that he put in the town. Jody made Janie work in the store that he built in the center of the town but restricted her from having fun interactions with other town citizens. Jody was a very controlling man and belittled his wife on multiple occasions, for example when he was first elected mayor the crowd cheered for Janie to give a speech but instead Jody intervened and told the crowd that “my wife dont know nothing about speech making and I never married her for anything like that, she’s a woman and her place is in the home”(Hurston, Ch 5, 1:29:42), Jody did not believe that Janie was intelligent enough to give the crowd a speech and had to put a stop to their nonsense. Janie was married to Jody for twenty years and she loved him, even though he was violent towards her and belittled her intelligence she still felt some affection towards him when he was on his deathbed. After Janie’s first two marriages it’s very apparent to see how Zora Neale has progressed Janie as a character and how she has changed overtime. Janie’s third marriage was too a man named Tea Cake, Tea Cake was a younger guy who Janie quickly fell in love with and moved to a different city to be with him. Janie was skeptical of Tea Cake after they had moved from Eatonville, because he had taken her two hundred dollars cash without asking her and spent the majority of it at a restaurant. Janie and Tea Cakes relationship was a little rocky at first and Janie was not sure if this relationship would just be another fluke, but after their relationship had ended Janie explained how Tea Cake showed her what it was really like to love someone and to be loved. All three of these relationships molded Janie into the woman that she is at the end of the book and helped progress the story.

In most relationships the power is typically distributed evenly, but that was not the case for Janie. Janie’s role in her relationships was to be a housewife and to heel at her husband’s commands, all of her relationships got physical with her husbands beating her. In Janie’s marriage with Logan, Logan had one hundred percent of the power, he would make all the important decisions and did not discuss anything with Janie because he did not feel the need to considering the fact that Janie’s grandmother had arranged the marriage. After meeting Joe she left Logan and went off with Joe to a new city that he would eventually become the mayor of. Janie and Joe’s relationship was different than Janie and Logan’s because she was actually attracted towards Joe, and she was not forced into their relationship. Joe was an ambitious man which is one of the reasons that Janie fell in love with him, but after a few years of being with him, Joe became overrun with power and was not the same man that Janie had fallen in love with. Jody became very controlling and did not allow Janie to interact socially with any of their customers or any of the people that sat in front of the store because it was not lady like, when Janie eventually spoke up about the matter Jody strikes Janie and drives her from the store. Janie did not realize how much of a toll being the mayor’s wife would take on her let alone her marriage. After Jody passed away, Janie ended up meeting Tea Cake in the store, the two had instant chemistry and seemed to truly love each other. The two would go on fun adventures together and Tea Cake taught her how to hunt, she eventually became a better shot then him which is ironic because of how things ended between the two. Although their relationship had some rough edges, Janie seemed to be better off with Tea Cake because he did not belittle her and the two seemed to have enjoyed their time together.

In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, love seems to be the most common theme throughout the novel. Janie was married multiple times and in every situation that she was in, she was always searching for the right person that would make her content in this world. Janie was married off to an older man named Logan by her grandmother and was told that she would love him because her grandmother planted the seed in her mind that every married couple was in love and happy. Janie quickly found out that her grandmother’s statement was far from the truth and that she did not feel any chemistry between herself and Logan so she ended up running off with Jody to a new city. Jody sold her on false reality of running off with him and living as a happy couple in this new town, even though they did live happily for a few years, there was a turning point where Jody became consumed with power and would disrespect Janie constantly and sometimes snap and beat her. After Jody passed away Janie felt like she had nothing left for her in Eatonville and ran off with a young man named Tea Cake. The two seemed to have an instant connection and Janie truly loved Tea Cake. Tea Cake treated Janie well and the two had fun together, they loved spending time with each other so much Janie began to work with him so that they could spend more time together. After Tea Cakes untimely passing Janie is appreciative of him for showing her what it is like to love someone and to be loved. Even though this novel deals with other important themes, love seems to be the main theme that can be found anywhere throughout the novel.

Throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, Zora emphasized how poorly women were treated during these times. The struggles of being a women and their voices being silenced go hand in hand, because they were looked down on by society. Most men during these times thought that women were not as intelligent as men and that they were thought to not be able to do the same activities as men. Janie’s experiences throughout the novel show her growth as a women and how women are just as capable of doing everything that a man does if not better. When Tea Cake teaches Janie how to shoot a gun, the two would compete against each other and Janie ended up being the better shot of the two even though Tea Cake was the one that taught her how to shoot. When Janie was married to Jody, Jody would always belittled women and believed that women could not think for themselves and that “”Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves.””(Hurston, Ch 6 , 2:30:30), When Janie tries to contest Jody’s opinion on a womens intelligence he tells her that women””just think they’s thinkin’. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one.””(Hurston, Ch 6, 2:30:40). No matter how many men put her down in her life, Janie still voices her opinions regardless of how people are gonna perceive her message. Not only was Janie a women, but she was also an african american, and as a whole african americans were not typically able to voice their own opinions on certain matters but Hurston gave Janie a voice to spread an important message to all women (Zhao). Certain men during these times thought so little of women that they thought it was right to kill a women if she disrespects her husband, at the end of chapter six a woman comes to the store asking for food for her children and some of the men said that if she was their wife they would “kill a cemetary dead”(Hurston, Ch 6, 2:38:22) for disrespecting her husband. Another time women were looked down on was when Tea Cake stole two hundred dollars from Janie and threw a party at a restaurant, Tea Cake was paying two to five dollars to keep the ugly women out of his party.

The language that Zora Neale uses in this book is highly praised and some literatures call it “speakerly text”(Gates) by the way that Hurston is able to use “her marvelous language skills by transferring the auditory into the visual”(Zhao). Hurston’s distinct dialect of early American history was unique and not really used during these times. The language that Hurston uses paints an image in the reader’s mind of how things worked back then, the grammar did have many imperfections, but that was the way that they spoke in those regions and she was able to capture that and give the reader’s a better perspective of the way it was to live during those times. Not only does Hurston switch through different points of views, but she also foreshadows so that the reader can interpret what the future has in store us. Even though her work was not sought after for many years because of how controversial it was, “”Many of the neglected African American/women writers have been rediscovered”(Zhao) with Hurston being one of the main ones. Zora Neale Hurston is one of the staples of African American/women writers in America and is finally getting the recognition that she deserves.

Throughout Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, there are a lot of common themes that present themselves all through the novel. These themes help connect the reader to Janie and allows the reader to watch and analyze each and every relationship that Janie is in and watch her grow as a women. The main aspect of this story follows Janie through her multiple marriages and shows how over the years she betters herself after each marriage.

Overall Hurston was able to create a novel that describes the hardships that colored people have to endure as well as the problems that women faced during these times. Hurston was able to capture the dialect that they used in those regions making the novel more interesting and allowing the reader to experience what life was like back then. Hurston’s unique writing style and her way of implementing a multitude of themes helps every kind of reader relate and enjoy her novels.

Works Cited

  1. Bealer, Tracy L. “”‘The Kiss of Memory’: The Problem of Love in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.”” African American Review, vol. 43, no. 2-3, 2009, p. 311+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/apps/doc/A253059562/AONE?u=moor85003&sid=AONE&xid=de6d6a23. Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.
  2. Byrd, Rudolph P. “”Shared orientation and narrative acts in ‘Cane,’ ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ and ‘Meridian.’ (books by African-American authors).”” MELUS, vol. 17, no. 4, 1991, p. 41+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A13471994/AONE?u=moor85003&sid=AONE&xid=4c0715ed. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019.
  3. Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (1984). Black Literature and Literary Theory. New York: Methuen.
  4. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, J.B. Lippincott, September 18, 1937.
  5. Zhao, Lihua. “”Racial and sexual politics of Their Eyes are Watching God from a spatial perspective.”” Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol. 5, no. 11, 2015, p. 2315+. Academic OneFile,http://link.galegroup.com.proxymc.vcccd.edu/apps/doc/A446637387/AONE?u=moor85003&sid=AONE&xid=cc0bac84. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019.”
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