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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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This essay analyses the book “Their Eyes Were Watching God” which was written by Zora Neale Hurston. Janie who is the main character in the book goes on a lifelong search for a fulfilling and unconditional love which she ends up getting with Tea Cake. During her quest, she endures the harsh judgment of the town gossips referred to as porch sitters but she gains independence and inner strength.

In her book, Hurston describes the porch sitters who are in on the front of Phoeby’s porch and Watson’s home after they have finished their daily chores. These sitters are surprised to see Janie Starks who is drudging into town. She says that Jane is loved by women but other women see her as a disaster. These women are seen to be jealousy on Jane. Jane’s husband, Tea Cake took her money and went away with a younger lady. Pheoby, who is Janie’s friend, tries to defend her before others saying that there is no reason for Janie to share her personal issues with them. Phoebe takes food to Janie within intention of wanting to know what happened to her in the past. She eats the food and explains about her time with her husband Tea Cake (chapter 1).

In chapter two, Hurston says that Nanny who is an ambitious woman believes that things will be good for Janie and her employer assisted her to purchase a house which had a yard that Janie was interested in. While in the yard, one afternoon, Johnny Taylor passes by the fence and talks to Janie. He also kisses her and this incident makes Nanny to recall her life with her daughter. After the incident, Janie defends herself claiming that the kissing was accidental but this does not convince Nanny. She then proposes for Janie to be married by Logan Killicks who much older claiming the he can take care of her but Janie opposes that plan (chapter 2). On Saturday evening, the friends attends Janie’s wedding in Nanny’s parlor and she gets a good send off as she gets married to Logan. After three months, Janie visits Nanny at Mrs. Washburn and it is seen that Janie is not comfortable in her marriage. Therefore, Nanny encourages her that many good things will happen in her life since she is young but Janie never wants to hear this from Nanny. She goes back to her place and the death of Nanny occurs within one month. (chapter 3).

In the first year of marriage, Logan tells Janie to work hard. One day, he tells her to cut the seed potatoes as he goes to inquire about the purchase of a mule at Lake City which Janie can use to plow. Joe Stark comes to Logan’s home and tells Janie that he comes from Georgia and she in turn tells him about herself. He tells her that she is young to plow in Logan’s farm and he makes her to think of a comfortable live. After this, Janie makes plans to meet Joe and they finally go to Green Cove Springs for marriage (chapter 4). Their marriage life looks good as they live in town and Joe has much money to afford a luxurious life. He buys more land in town and he develops jealousy that other men will be attracted by her wife. The porch sitters realize that their marriage relationship is not good as Joe accuses Janie of mistakes (chapter 5). The writer says that Joe discovers the misplacement of a bill of shipment in the store one day and blames Janie. On another day, he slaps her when the kitchen is in a mess until she doubts their marriage and the porch sitters does not see any love in the marriage (chapter 6).

Hurston says that Joe declines after seventeen years and he increases his insults toward Janie who in turn insults her manhood in front of the porch sitters (chapter 7). Joe’s illness persists to an extent of the failure of the kidney and he never wanted doctors’ services. Janie tries to take care of him but he resists and he finally dies (chapter 8). The book shows that Janie conducted the funeral of his husband in a good manner. She decides to enjoy the freedom of sitting on the porch and she continues keeping the store (chapter 9). While in the town, Tea Cake comes to visit Janie at the store where he they play checkers and he walks her home (chapter 10).

Janie welcomes Tea Cake and although unsure whether to trust him, they have a serious discussion about their age difference which makes her thinks about him. She finally accepts him and they consummate their love. Tea Cake disappears for four days which worries Janie but he returns claiming he was looking for money to take her to Sunday school (chapter 11). Janie appears in Sunday school with Tea Cake, these puzzles the townsfolk who consider her to be Mrs. Mayor Storks. Phoeby talks to Janie about Tea Cake and her romance, but she seems to get none of it and with a hint of envy, Phoeby warns her against marrying Tea cake. (Chapter 12).

In chapter 13, Janie is off to Jacksonville in a train to marry Tea cake. Although she leaves early enough, a few people reported that she looked beautiful. They are quickly married and as husband and wife, Tea Cake disappears with her $200. Janie sees her fate similar to that of Mrs. Tyler who was seduced and abandoned by a young man. As Janie continues to worry, he comes back to tell her that he was tempted to throw a party for his rail road gangs. He wants to return the money back from gambling but after winning $300, he is stabbed and Janie has to take care of him. When he is healed, he suggests that they leave Jacksonville. (chapter 13). In chapter 14, the two arrive earlier in Everglades. They rent a two-room house and Tea Cake wants to teach her how to use a gun. She is bored alone in the house cooking and she decides to follow Tea Cake to work, here the migrants readily accept her as Tea Cake entertains the people with guitar and his stories. (chapter 14). 

A girl named Nunkie attempts to play for Tea Cake and due to jealous, Janie chases her away as Tea Cake struggles to resists her. Janie hits him as he tries to talk to her and a fight ensures. She later extracts assertions of his devotion to her. (chapter 15). When the planting and harvesting season comes to an end, migrants leave but Tea Cake and Janie remain and they make friends with a restaurant owner Mrs. Tuner. An un-attractive and overbearing woman who expresses a bigotry attitude appeals to Janie but not her husband. (chapter 16).

Not a long time and the seasonal workers on the muck start returning. According to Mrs. Turner’s plan, her brother was to chase after Janie. Tea Cake slaps his wife, a gesture of the husband’s role but Joe struck her more than once. A fight among drunken migrant men ensures in the restaurant and because Tea cake is unable to stop it, he joins them. (chapter 17). In Chapter 18, its late summer and it’s that time of the year when hurricanes hits the Everglades. A storm rages as Tea Cake and Janie are leaving towards Palm Beach Hotel road. Storm hits, thunder and lightning bites as the lives of the migrants is destroyed. Dikes break and silently they say a prayer, as their eyes are watching God silently Tea cake clings to a cow and urges Janie to follow suit but a rabid dog clinging to the cow bites him on the cheek (Chapter 18).

Fortunately for the two, they make it to safety but Tea cake is forced to sort White and Blacks for burial purposes. An opportunity arises and he flees. Janie tries to convince him to seek medical services for the dog bite but he refuses, they later decide to go to the muck. As they enjoy the hospitality of the muck, Tea Cake shows signs of the dog bite and he is even unable to swallow. In his illness, he threatens her but she kills him. She is tried and later freed and gives him a glorious send off in Palm Beach. (chapter 19).

Due to Tea Cake’s popularity, she stay put in Everglades for a few weeks but she loves Eatonville. She then returns from Everglades in the overalls she had worn on the muck. Janie’s story inspires Phoeby and she promises herself to spend more time with Sam.

In conclusion, Hurston draws the readers into her story with the soft inflection of the dialect in the velvet dusk. In the novel, we follow Janie through her three marriages, seeing her sense of self evolve and strengths. In the current world, the character Janie is a mainstay of various discussions in successive Women and a good reference point from which the girls can evaluate other women in the society. However, I criticize Hurston for not including other serious issues such as strained race relations.

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