The novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” contains beautiful imagery that conveys the thoughts of the author towards the antagonist of this story, Janie Crawford. Through her four distinct lives as Janie Crawford, Janie Killicks, Janie Starks, and Janie Woods she realizes that each day the sun rises a new change is apparent in her life. The experience of each distinct life makes her realize more about herself than she ever knew before. She comes to a self-revelation about herself.
Even though it takes her the entire novel to realize her sexual awakening from the blossoming pear tree to experience unadulterated love, she does so as the sun falls and rises past the years of her maturing life. The novel starts out with Janie at the ripe age of sixteen realizing her sexual peak. “She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. Hurston: 11). Nanny realizes that Janie has become ready for marriage, after settling for a kiss from a tall and lean, yet poor boy by the name of Johnny Taylor. So, Nanny arranges a marriage between Janie Crawford and Logan Killicks to start Janie’s new life as Janie Killicks before she would be able to get entangled in the humble life of a poor black man like Johnny Taylor. She was a former slave, so Nanny believed in the value of financial security and respectability.
Therefore, she forced Janie into marrying Logan Killicks when she was still in her teens. A year passed by with Janie realizing that she did not love Logan and would never love him, so she felt it was time for a change. Janie left Logan for the high-spirited and charming Jody Starks. “They sat on the boarding house porch and saw the sun plunge into the same crack in the earth from which the night emerged. ” (Hurston: 33). Janie realized that it was time for a change and to take a chance in attempt to attain love by her own means.
Nanny would’ve disapproved of the big talk behind a black man like Jody Starks; however, he would create an even more financially stable setting for Janie to live in than in the marriage she set up Janie with the farmer, Logan Killicks. Marrying Joe without even divorcing Logan, she settles with him in her new life at Eatonville. He buys two hundred acres of land, quickly becoming mayor of the all-black town with Janie becoming Mrs. Mayor. She is forced to run the grocery store, which she doesn’t like and is often ordered around and ridiculed by her husband.
Joe was now showing his true character since before they got married he said he would love her and treat her with the utmost respect, but this wasn’t the case at all. Living with the pain caused by her second husband for almost two decades, she realized that he wasn’t the man she was looking for. She was thirty-five now and was beginning to mature. “But mostly she lived between her hat and her heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods-come and gone with the sun. She got nothing from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving away what she didn’t value.
More now than ever she realizes that Joe was a harsh and cold man she never loved. Also, this foreshadows Jody’s sickness and the chance for Janie to tell him that he was a stubborn old man that had covered his physical ailments by exploiting others just before he dies. Nine months after the death of Jody, without expecting a man to dazzle her into a relationship, Janie finds a young, nice-looking man who is fun to be with. “Well, Ah love tuh find out whut you think after sun-up tomorrow. Dis is just’ you’ night thought. ” (Hurston: 105).
After Tea Cake says this, Janie starts to realize that even though she doesn’t admit it to herself at first that she loves Tea Cake, she is actually starting to fall in love with him. She has found her first true love and will go through many trials and tribulations to discover what true love really is. After going to a picnic dressed in bright colors, which Tea Cake encourages Janie to wear, she realizes that she is now past Jody and her rebirth has begun. The matrimony of Tea Cake and Janie takes place and the two decide to settle in Jacksonville.
Janie loves the idea of marrying Tea Cake, but she does mature enough to have her doubts about him when he unexpectedly leaves the house with two hundred dollars of her money without telling her about it. She has gone through two rough marriages and she had to expect the worst from Tea Cake as well. “Janie dozed off to sleep but she woke up in time to see the sun sending up spies ahead of him to mark out the road through the dark. ” (Hurston: 120). Her thoughts about Tea Cake were wrong, since he would come back to Janie for good, unlike a story she heard about a old lady named Mrs.
Tyler, who was in a similar type of relationship with a younger man. Her lover, Who Flung abandoned her because he just wanted her money. However, Tea Cake explained that he was just treating people to a free meal since he felt like a millionaire with all that money in his pocket and he would eventually pay back the money in full. She hadn’t developed full trust in Tea Cake yet, but after he told her the circumstance he was in as the sun was gleaming in their eyes, Janie would now trust him with her life. The couple developed a fine relationship and would eventually move into the Everglades on the muck to work for wages.
However, a devastating hurricane hit the town. Tea Cake saved Janie from drowning to her death, but would be bitten by a mad dog giving him rabies. Janie would be put in a situation where she would have to kill Tea Cake before he would shoot her. Her maturation showed her that Tea Cake would have preferred for her to live, not having him live and regretting the rest of his life for killing his love. She had a full life to live while Tea Cake was overtaken by rabies, so she knew that it was right for her to have ended his life instead of hers.
She was put on trial, but would be found innocent of all charges. “The sun was almost down and Janie had seen the sun rise on her troubled love and then she had shot Tea Cake and had been in jail and had been tried for her life and now she was free. ” (Hurston: 188). The trial was know over and Janie could set up a nice funeral to show the appreciation she had for Tea Cake by burying him with a nice ceremony as if he were like a “Pharaoh. ” She would remember her life with Tea Cake for it brought her great joy and love.
Her maturity was now complete and she could live her life out by herself if she had to because her harsh life as three different people made it so ever sweet when she had that one momentous and glorious life with Tea Cake. Janie’s life began as a very harsh and cruel journey towards a true self-revelation of herself. Starting with her teen years, she was hassled by her Grandmother to marry for stability and money, not love. She would then follow a man with a big voice to escape the laborious and unaffectionate life with Logan to marry Jody.
Realizing that Jody was an even bigger nuisance for a much longer period of time, she would then go on to marry Tea Cake. Janie has returned to her own place, as her own woman, with her own memories to guide and comfort her. Although she grieves Tea Cake’s unfortunate death, she has come back a wiser person and is stronger because of it. She will keep Tea Cake alive in heart to keep her company and live joyfully in the next stage of her life knowing that Tea Cake helped her realize her capacity to mature into a loving adult and actually love a person to the fullest extent possible.