In Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie Crawford is a suppressed woman with high hopes and dreams and only in the face of death is she able to break through and emerge stronger than ever. In the middle of the novel, Janie undergoes a rebirth. Her husband Joe dies and with him goes all memories of the “old” Janie, one that reluctantly conformed to the traditional housewife role. What emerges, is a strong, determined black woman, no longer hiding her beauty and this new Janie pursues her once lost dreams.
Janie then reaches the climax of her new life when she is willing to die just to be with her husband, Tea Cake, in a violent storm. Her hopes have finally been fulfilled and she could want nothing more. The development of Janie as a character is remarkable as seen by her ability to triumph in the face of death. Joe Starks first came into Janie’s life when she was just an innocent young woman with all sorts of hopes and dreams. To Janie, he represented these dreams and was her opportunity to fulfill them.Order now
However, what Janie did not foresee is that Joe took her away from that life she hated with Logan Killicks and led her into that same life with him. For years and years Janie is suppressed and is unable to be the person she wishes to be. All those hopes and dreams that Joe once represented faded back to the horizon which nearly disappeared from sight. As long as Janie is with Joe, she can never live the life she had once hoped for. During these long years with Joe, Janie, on the outside, is lifeless, living a monotonous daily routine while inside her there still burns a small flame of hope.
Joe’s death marks a significant moment in Janie’s life and development as a character. Gone with Joe is everything he represented. Janie is no longer suppressed and finally has the opportunity to be free and pursue her hopes and dreams. What emerges at Joe’s funeral is a new Janie. On the “outside,” she shows and does everything she is supposed to do. She “starched and ironed her face” which was like “a wall of stone and steel. ” Janie’s exterior is hard and cold, like death, but it is to protect, to conceal what is happening inside. Inside,” she is “calm” and “the things of death reach” but cannot disturb her for “all things concerning death and burial were said and done. ”
Hurston continually contrasts Janie’s interior to her exterior as to show her rebirth within while maintaining a solid appearance to please those around her. However, the first thing Janie does after the funeral is get rid of everything that reminds her of her old self. She “burnt up every one of her head rags” and went about with her hair down to her waist. Janie’s hair has always been one of her most striking features and now Janie finally can exhibit her femininity.
The funeral is the beginning of a great change in Janie where, with Joe gone, “she would have the rest of her life to do as she pleased. ” Janie, now free with Joe’s death, begins to ask herself questions and thinks back to her past which she despised so greatly. Hurston uses this long paragraph of Janie’s memories of her grandmother to show the extent of her suffering in the past and what may lie ahead in the future.
As a child, Janie was very hopeful and dreamy. She had been “getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people. She was not the type of girl satisfied being a housewife and striving to live a secure life. No, Janie felt “it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her. ” However, in a single action, Nanny, her grandmother, shattered these hopes. By marrying Janie to Logan Killicks, Nanny was committing Janie to a life she wanted nothing of.
In doing so, Nanny had “taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon,” which Janie sought for so long, “and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her. For this, “she hated her grandmother. ” However, like The Man, who Hurston describes at the end of the passage, Janie is able to continue living and chasing her dreams and shining while doing so.
Later in the novel, Janie faces death once again this time in the form of a vicious storm. She and Tea Cake and Motor Boat are stuck in a small house while the hurricane rages outside. Hurston uses an entire page to describe the ferocity of the storm. The storm’s winds become “louder and higher and lower and wider,” and it totally engulfs the house.
The storm itself is personified, described as “the monster” which “trampled over the roof of the house” and “roll in his bed. ” Hurston uses this personification to further emphasize the great magnitude of the storm and the extreme danger it poses, making it apparent that it is like death, threatening the lives of Janie and her beloved husband, Tea Cake. So great is the hurricane that Janie calls it “His work. ” Only God can create such a storm with the fierceness to take their lives at anytime.
And it is during this time, when a storm sent from God threatens her life that Janie comes to a realization that will forever change her life. Janie has searched her entire life for that perfect husband that would let her be herself and that could treat her right and she finally found that man in Tea Cake. During the storm, as Death encroaches, Janie realizes that she would rather be no place than in that house with Tea Cake. She says, when asked if she wished she had stayed back in Joe’s big house, “Ah”m wid my husband in uh storm, dat’s all.
After two unhappy marriages, Janie’s dream is realized. She found the man she had been looking for her entire life and was willing to die just to be with him. For years, Janie was never content and always searching, but “God opened de door” and she found Tea Cake. God opened the door. God sent the storm. Janie and Tea Cake are destined to be together by God. She knows this and that is why Janie is able to endure and then emerge from the ferocious storm stronger than ever. Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel about Janie Crawford’s struggles through life and her search for true love.
Oddly, in the face of death, Janie has the most strength, resolve, and even greater determination to venture forth in her journey of life. With the death of Joe Starks, Janie begins a new life and her old self, a woman that was suppressed by those around her, becomes a fading memory. Through ups and downs Janie always prevails and finally all her dreams and hopes are satisfied when she faces death once more in the vicious hurricane with her one and only love, Tea Cake. Janie is truly amazing as she is able to break free of the conventional ways and live her dreams even after being held back for so many years.