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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Janie's Marriages

In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Lora Neale Hurston, the main character engages in three marriages that lead her towards a development of self. Through each endeavor, Janie learns the truths of life, love, and the path to finding her identity. Though suppressed because of her race and gender, Janie has a strong will to live her life the way she wills. But throughout her life, she encounters many people who attempt to change the way that she is and her beliefs. Each marriage that she undertakes, she finds a new realization and is on a never-ending quest to find her identity and true love. Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake each help Janie progress to womanhood and find her identity.

At age sixteen, Janie is a beautiful young girl who is about to enter womanhood and experience the real world. Being joyous and unconcerned, she is thrown into an arranged marriage with Logan Killicks. He is apparently unromantic and unattractive. Logan is a widower and a successful farmer who desires a wife who would not have her own opinions. He is set on his own ways and is troubled by Janie, who forms her own opinions and refuses to work. He is unable to sexually appeal or satisfy Janie and therefore does not truly connect with her as husband and wife should. Janie's wild and young spirit is trapped within her and she plays the role of a silent and obeying wife. But her true identity cannot withhold itself for she has ambitions and she wills to see the world and find love. There was a lack of trust and communication between Logan and Janie. Because of the negative feelings Janie has towards Logan, she deems that this marriage is not what she desires it to be. The pear tree and the bees had a natural attraction and sexual experience unlike her relationship with Logan and so Janie realizes that he is not for her. So one day she meets Joe Starks and after spending some time together, Janie asks Logan what he would do if she ran away. Logan, rather than responding honestly, lies and hides his true feelings through insults. Janie learns that a marriage does not always withhold love. Love is something that must come naturally without force or thought and Janie sees that she has no such feeling towards Logan. Hence Janie runs off with Joe Starks and Logan is never heard of again.

Joe Starks is an admirable person. He promises Janie beautiful material things and happiness unlike Logan who only tried to control her and offered her no love. Janie is overwhelmed by this proposal and believes that Joe may be the bee that has come to fertilize her and make her happy, but she is proven wrong. After she runs away from Logan, Joe and Janie travel to a new town that is only occupied by African Americans. There, Joe becomes mayor and is well respected by all. He gains wealth and gives Janie the material things that he promised her, but forces her to work in his local store all day long. He does not allow her to attend parties or have any fun and makes negative comments about her constantly. He says,

Janie, where's dat last bill uh ladin'?... If you'd git yo' mind out de streets and keep it on yo' business maybe you could git somethin' straight sometimes. Dat's 'cause you need tellin', it would be pitiful if Ah didn't. Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I got, they sho don't think none theirselves (Hurston 66).

He feels that she is to be a proper mayor's wife and be what he wants her to be. Her association with the town people is cutoff because Joe believe that she is better than them and therefore should not be involved with low things. She is controlled by his wishes and realizes that she has returned to the situation she wills to get out of. Janie does receive gifts and such to make her content, but she still does not feel that Joe is her love. Janie has no say in her opinions and is restricted by Joe because he thinks that is how Janie should behave. Joe, in no way treated Janie as her equal or wife, he only regarded her as an accessory to his position as mayor. She feels that Joe Starks is not the husband that she desires and that Joe is not the same person as when she first met him. In this marriage, Janie sees that she is no longer open to Joe and cannot express her feelings and she thinks that there will be no bees coming to greet her. Janie finally realizes that her grandmother had the wrong idea of fulfilling her dreams, instead of searching for all that she wanted, Janie only wanted company and love. She felt that it would soon come to her and she would be like the pear tree waiting for it. At Joe's deathbed Janie finally speaks her mind. She says,

...It wasn't because Ah didn't have no sympathy. Ah had uh lavish uh dat. Ah jus didn't never git no change tuh use none of it. You wouldn't let me...Listen, Jody you ain't de Jody ah run off down de road wid. You'se whut's left after he died... Mah own mind had tuh be squeezed and crowded out tuh make room for yours in me (81).

She was in love with the Joe that was never really there. She had spent all her time with a man who did not truly care for her and therefore did not add up to what she wanted. After his death, she abandoned the head tie



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