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    Journey for Love in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

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    In the foreword of Zora Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Edwidge Danticat, the author of the short story Krik? Krak!, notes the complex trials that Janie Crawford, the protagonist of Their Eyes Were Watching God, “as she attempts to survive her grandmother’s restricted vision of a black woman’s life and realize her own self-conceived liberation”(Hurston 15). Janie’s liberties were restricted by her grandmother but after her grandmother dies; she begins her adventure to find love where she’s treated as an equal and find her voice. Through Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston makes the argument that in a patriarchal society, feminist love cannot sustain because of women’s power in society is stifled by men.

    Before stepping further into the paper, feminism is the movement to end sexism and sexist oppression which connects to feminist love as feminist love is where both sexes are equal in a relationship. However, patriarchy and patriarchal love are institutional practices that enable men to have power in society and in a relationship. bell hooks, the author of Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, through the use of elevated diction and repetition of “we”, makes her argument that in order for men and women to love, they must crave feminism in her section; To Love Again: The Heart of Feminism. bell hooks discuss that patriarchal love provides no benefits juxtaposed to feminist love where “Feminist thinking and practice emphasize the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in partnerships and in parenting”(hooks 103). The elevated diction of “self-actualization” and “mutual growth” demonstrates that feminist thinking and practices which connects back to feminist love can help relationships. Janie is pursuing this love in a patriarchal society where can she can grow and become a better person. hooks continue to address the topic of feminist love as she concludes by stating “we [need to] accept that true love is rooted in recognition and acceptance . . . we understand there can be love without justice”(hooks 104). By hooks stating “we” is attaching the reader to the message but is also addressing women and men as that society needs to accept that true love, feminist love, is attainable when both accept that patriarchal love is determinantal and doesn’t allow the growth of their relationship. Patriarchal love encourages oppressive behavior juxtaposed to feminist love which encourages equality. Janie wants that type of love that hooks is describing but it’s impracticable patriarchy which doesn’t allow equality to last.

    Janie temporarily experiences feminist love in her relationship with Tea Cakes. Through the symbolism of Janie playing checkers, Janie’s hair, and the storm; feminist love can only maintain in society is if the lovers are isolated from society. Janie and Tea Cakes first moment with each other was over a game of checkers; Tea Cakes wanted to teach the novice, Janie, how to play which resulted in Janie saying “It’s all right tuh come teach me, but don’t cheat me”(Hurston, 96). Janie is allowing Tea Cakes to help her play checkers but she doesn’t her liberties to be circumscribed since he’s a man but Tea Cakes only wants to help Janie as he believes that she is going to “be uh good player . . . after [a] while”(Hurston 96). Tea Cakes helping Janie connects back to what hooks stated earlier about feminist thinking “emphasiz[ing] the value of mutual growth and self-actualization”. When Tea Cakes and Janie are isolated from society, they are able to maintain feminist love due to no corrupt rules and standards messing up their relationship. Janie allows Tea Cakes to stay in her house after they had dinner together; Janie fell asleep and woke up “with Tea Cakes combing her hair . . . made her more comfortable and drowsy”(Hurston 103). Tea Cakes and Janie are isolated from society in this scene as Tea Cakes is captivated with Janie’s hair. Also, Tea Cakes is breaking the gender norms placed by society for men since men are not supposed to play and fix with women. This moment connects back to hooks’ quote that “true love is rooted in recognition and acceptance” as Tea Cakes is accepting Janie’s identity and her uniqueness as he’s not which correlates with the definition of feminist love as Tea Cakes is accepting Janie as an equal. However, Janie and Tea Cakes’ are only allowed to express in this type of love away from society where they won’t be criticized as if this was to happen away from Janie’s home: there would’ve been discord. The storm devastated most of the Everglades and killed many. Tea Cakes and Janie were trapped in the storm and in order to keep moving away from the storm “Tea Cakes had to throw his box away, and Janie saw how it hurt him”(Hurston 161). Tea Cakes had to surrender his cherished belongings to protect his true-love, Janie. Tea Cakes is again defying the social barrier placed on men as men are not supposed to sacrifice their belongings. This connects back to what hooks’ stated earlier about “self-actualization” as Tea Cakes is realizing in order to continue to grow as a person and achieve his personal goals; he needs Janie to be right at his side. To add on to Tea Cakes and Janie’s feminist relationship, Jennifer Jordan, the author of Feminist Fantasies: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God explains that “ Tea Cake’s death allows Janie to hold on to her paradise and to a dream of a perfect love”(Jordan 110). Even though feminist love cannot last in a patriarchal society, Janie is remembering the love that Tea Cakes gave her when they were alone when they were playing checkers, Tea Cakes playing with her hair, and when they were in the storm before Tea Cakes was corrupted by society.

    Despite Janie encountering this love, it doesn’t last as through the motif of silence, Janie is powerless in a patriarchy where feminist love is impossible to sustain.

    Works Cited

    1. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
    2. Hooks, Bell. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000. Print.
    3. Hooks, Bell. “To Love Again: The Heart of Feminism.” Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, South End Press, 2000, pp. 1–125.
    4. Jordan, Jennifer. “Feminist Fantasies: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 7, no. 1, 1988, pp. 105–117. JSTOR,

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