The novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” written by Zora Neale Hurston, is a tale of a biracial African American woman (with half Caucasian roots due to here father being white) named Janie Crawford. It tells the story of a woman who overcomes her domestication from her two ex-husbands and finally gaining her independence when she married her third husband. The heroine of the novel has always been rebellious in nature. Janie Crawford was unable to accept the stereotypical norms of a womans role during the era the story takes place, resulting in conflict and is demonstrated in her three marriages.
The book takes place during the 1920s and 1930s in the South, primarily Eatonville, Florida. The story is told through the eyes of Janie and her native dialect in a recountment of her personal and tragic journey in life, upon her return to Eatonville after several years of absence. She is asked by her best friend, Phoeby Watson, about the disposition of her husband and that is when the real story begins. The life of Janie Crawford begins with the abandonment of the main character by her birth mother, Leafy Crawford, which results in her grandmother, Nanny Crawford becoming her guardian. Nanny Crawford, whose roots derive from slavery days, arranges the marriage of her grandaughter to a much older man, Logan Killicks. Due to the beliefs of Nanny Crawford, she believes that the marriage with Logan will ensure her grandaughters future because she was going to be a honest man who earns a honest living, therefor providing financial security, despite the absence of love.
Janie and Logans marriage was not to survive. After a year of self devotion by Logan to Janie through gifts, she is asked to help him with the farm. As his wife, through guilt, and feeling obligated (because of his kind gestures) agrees to aid her husband. During her labors with the farm, she is felt unloved and unappreciated. However, this would not last long.
She is courted by Jody Starks, her soon to be husband. Rebellious in nature, she defies the wishes of her grandmother and much contemplation, “A feeling of sudden newness and change came over her. Janie hurried out of the front gate and turned south Jody Starks is a charasmatic man who has high ambitions and driven by power, the complete opposite of Logan, and this attracts Janie. She is promised a lifestyle of a much higher caliber than her current social class and the solution to her loneliness and other problems. Janie leaves Logan, and runs off with Jody to Eatonville. The couple is married for twenty years and Jody achieves the success he had been wanting his entire life. He becomes the postmaster, storekeeper, mayor, and owner of the biggest land in Eatonville. Janie becomes the wife that Jody wants her to be.
She is to be seen but not heard and treated as an object in her husbands list of accomplishment and thirst for dominance. Their marriage ends when she is beaten in the eyes of the citizens of Eatonville. Despite the suppression of Janies rebellious nature in which she overcomes, “she lets her hair down”. This upsets and ultimately angers Jody because he is challenged in the eyes of the people he commands and his power is threatened. Jody succumbs to an illness and dies from it. Before this happens, Janie, like a woman scorned, overcomes the restrain from Jody and reverts back to her rebellious nature and tells him everything she was feeling. Janie Crawford now feels the freedom she had been missing for many years.
She enjoys the feeling very much and rejects the men who courts her, because of her belief that all they want is her money. Her status as a widow is short lived, when a young man named Tea Cake comes into her life. They begin openly seeing each other, and much to the towns peoples dismay they Janie and Tea Cake gets married. She then leaves her life in Eatonville and goes to the Everglades with her new husband. The marriage of Tea Cake and Janie is the union that she has sought for throughout the years. Tea Cake is Janies soulmate. He fullfills and completes Janie in every aspect of a lifelong companion. Although there marriage is not a perfect one, but Janie is finally happy.
Janie demonstrates her rebellious nature in this marriage by not being taken advantage of and played a fool. In Tea Cakes shame of not being able to support his wife, he ends up leaving her. His depature is extremely short and only resulted in one day of absence.
This angers Janie and results in Tea Cake admitting his wrong doing. He agrees that he would always be honest with her and never take advantage of her and play her for a fool. Their marriage comes to an end when Tea Cake is shot by Janie, in which she commited in an act of self defense because the man she loved was driven mad due to a bite from a rabid dog after a hurricane had ravaged their lives. Although, she was forced to kill her husband, she is not torn or left in shambles. Janie understands through her life with Tea Cake that this was what meant to happen and although he is gone, Janie still feels the presence of her departed husband with her. Janie after this journey returns to Eatonville where the story begins and ends. The novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston is a story about womans journey throughout her search for her place in life and her identity through her rebellious ways.
She was wed three times in her lifetime. Her first two marriages was not a success and although she had killed her third husband, it was not all in vain. During the time Janie and Tea Cake were together, Janie had found her complete self and her identity. Throughout her marriages, Janies rebellious nature is forced to take the back seat, but is later shown by Janie in many acts of defiance.
This is part of Janie Crawfords identity and although surpressed at times, like the hurricane that destroyed the lives of many in the Everglades, she enfuriated the lives of her husbands and dwindling the control they have over her, ultimately resulting in her happiness and contentment with herself.