Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Hurston is narrated in the eyes of a black woman named Janie. Janie was brought up in the age when blacks where free, but she was still under a social law inherited from her family which kept her bound. Janies grandmother and her first two husbands suppress her into a cocoon and it was not until she met her third husband Tea Cake, that she was able to break free and fly away like a butterfly.
Janies grandmother had lived in the time of slavery, raising her under strict customs, in which men and women were not equal. Under her grandmothers guidance, Janie was required to marry solely based on a custom that is dependent on a man to provide for the woman. At this time, Janie did not intend to marry, but her grandmother wanted to insure Janies safety and told her, Taint Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have, baby, its protection (Hurston 15). Janies grandmother would at least pass on, knowing her granddaughter is with a man who could provide for her. Janies grandmother implicitly says, Neither can you stand alone by yoself Ah got tuh try and do for you befo mah head is cold(15), showing an effort to make Janie dependent on a man .
Janie struggles to find some sign of love from her new husband Logan, but does not find love where love should be; all she finds is coldness and a husband who wants submission from his wife. It was Logans intention to mold his new wife and told Janie, Thought Ahd take and make somethin outa yuh (30), confirming an attempt to make her submissive and by letting her know how he feels about her role in the marriage when he says, You aint got no particular place. Its wherever Ah need yuh(31). All Logan expects from Janie is obedience. Logan expects her to stop what she is doing to help him, regardless if Janie believes if it is her place or not. Experience in a one sided marriage, persuades Janie to explore a different route in her freedom.
After Logan wanted Janie to work like a man, she meets her future second husband, Joe Starks and runs away with him to get married. Joe is a black man, full of ambition and of authoritarian ways, but Janie does not realize this until after he sweeps her off to a new town.Joe suppresses Janie so much that she felt as if, She was a rut in the roadPlenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels(76). Even though Janie was approaching her forties later on in her marriage, she still was young for her age and life was about to be stifled. Every chance Joe had, he would keep Janie from being a part of life, he kept her shut up in a cocoon and made sure she knew her place under him.
Joe had numerous chances as the mayor of a little black community, to let Janie express herself as a woman in politics. As the mayors wife, Janie should be allowed to give her view to the public, because she was a public figure. Joe would not allow this to happen as he explained why when he told the town, …but mah wife dont know nothing bout no speech-makin Shes uh woman and her place is in de home (43). Janie would have liked a choice to make a speech, but Joe spoke for her.
Although Joe gave her material comforts, Janie never felt free to do things she enjoyed explaining, but Jody wouldnt low me tuh. When Ah wasnt in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid folded hands and sit dere(112). Janie was locked away in Joes world and he kept the key. Joe provided a comfort of living for Janie, but she sought a comfort of mind; which Joe could not provide, because of his overbearing and possessive attitude towards her.
Following Joe Starks death, Janies world changed dramatically for the good when she met her third husband, Tea Cake. He did not have much to offer Janie in regards to material things, but he did offer her freedom to express herself. The first few times Tea Cake visited Janie; he taught her to play checkers. Janie was immediately impressed with him and the freedom to play a mans game, she soon let him into her heart. Tea Cake opened Janies cocoon and let her out by letting her do things she was never able to do until now. They fished, hunted, danced and did various other activities Janie had never had the opportunity to do. Janie had been with Tea Cake for two years, when they experienced a hurricane, and Janie surmises under the foul weather conditions, Its so many people never seen de light at all. Ah wuz fumblin round and God opened de door(159). Janie was telling her husband, that under the circumstances of possible death, she was able to see the light, which God had furnished her with an Angel of a husband and she was satisfied with him.
After several years of suppression by her grandmother and two husbands, Janie was on the verge of depression, but Janie was able to begin a new life with Tea Cake. He brought the best out of Janie by letting her be free. Even after Tea Cake died, he was not dead to Janie. Of course he was wasnt dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking(193).It was Tea Cake who broke open her cocoon to let her fly free.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: