Faisal Mustafa Daren Salter Humanities 11 October. 7th. 2016 Janie’s Realization of Material Security’s Overrated Nature There are two types of relationships in life, symbiotic and nonsymbiotic. Happiness usually comes from symbiotic relationships and the latter comes from non-symbiotic ones. Zora Neale Hurston explores these ideas in her 1937 novel, There Eyes Were Watching God. The novel explores a story of a fair-skinned African American woman, Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood, confidence and independence through three marriages in which she experiences trials and finds her purpose.
More complex than just a love story, Hurston shows us the story of a woman who refused to live in sorrow and persevered to find her maturity with life in a time when it was hard for women to do so, let alone African American women. In Hurston’s lens, Janie’s relationships with people, whether they be beneficial or degrading, teach her things that help her reach a content place in her life. Janie learns that she does not need material things to feel secure and confident within herself through relationships with Logan and his farm, Joe and his store and Tea Cake.
Janie relationship with the successful Logan Killicks allowed for her to understand that socioeconomic success isn’t all that matters in a relationship. An example of this is when Logan and Janie are arguing about how much independence he gives her in their relationship. “Considerin’ youse born in a carriage ‘thout no top to it, and yo’ mama and you bein’ born and raised in de white folks back-yard (4. 40). ” This shows us a lot of things about Logan character but also how marriage has to do with a lot more than just appearance or class.
Logan looks down on Janie for having lived as the white people’s servant and ward her whole life. He considers himself, in his freedom and hard-earned living, classier than Janie. “Considerin'” she comes from a lower social situation, he thinks she doesn’t have the right to act independent or have many opinions. This will be the root of the issue between Janie and Logan, chemistry. “Ah thought you would ‘preciate good treatement. Thought Ah’d take and make somethin’ outa yuh. You think youse white folks by de way you act” (4. 42).
Logan again feels so out of touch with Janie because of how he thinks about his social class in relation to Janie’s. Janie never feels satisfied in her relationship with Logan because she never felt the need for material security. In another instance, Janie is talking to Nanny about her unsuccessful marriage to Logan and Nanny does not want to hear it. [Nanny] “You come heah wid yo’ mouf full uh foolishness on uh busy day. Heah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo’bawn days, and big protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call you Mis’ Killicks, and you come worryin’ me ’bout love”. Janie] “But Nanny, Ah want to want him sometimes.
Ah don’t want him to do all de wantin. ” (23) Janie finally admits to Nanny that she has no feelings for Logan and he is really the only one that is showing feelings for her. This comes to a great shock to Nanny because she grew up believing that marriage didn’t really have to be on the basis of love but Janie cannot accept this. Logan cannot “do all de wantin” in the relationship. Janie, besides all of Logan’s wealth and class, does not feel the need to be married to someone for their material security, rather for love.
This is only the first out of many instances in Janie’s journey that she begins to realize what gives her happiness in life. Joe Starks allows for Janie to learn that money and authority are not the root of happiness in a relationship. An example of this is when Janie is trying to tell Jody that his job as the mayor isn’t allowing time for their relationship. “Naw Jody, it jus’ looks lak it [Joe’s new position as mayor] keeps us in some way we ain’t natural wid one’ nother. You’se always off talkin’ and fixin’ things, and Ah feels lak Ah’m jus’ markin’ time (5. 125).
Joe’s new position as mayor inherently puts him in a class above the ordinary citizens of Eatonville, and Janie immediately notices the strain in puts on their relationship. She is always waiting on people and being a pretty face while he is of inflating his ego and making speeches. It makes their marriage less romantic. Janie is again feeling that material security is not the problem in the relationship but how much love is really founded in the relationship. Another example is when Joe doesn’t allow Janie to talk to the porch sitters in front of their store.
Janie loved the conversation and sometimes she thought up good stories on the mule, but Joe had forbidden her to indulge. He didn’t want her talking after such trashy people. “You’se Mrs. Mayor Starks, Janie. I god, Ah can’t see what uh woman uh yo’ stability would want tuh be treasurin’ all dat gum-grease from folks dat don’t even own de house dey sleep in. ” (6. 28) Although Janie doesn’t mind mingling with all the townspeople and making up tall tales about the infamous mule, Joe considers the people “trashy” and “gumgrease.
He thinks Janie’s position as mayor’s wife automatically makes her morally superior and he does not want her associating with them. This is, of course, hypocrisy since Joe himself, the mayor of the town, associates and jokes with them all the time. All the same, he seems to think that it hurts his own social status to have his wife hanging around with commoners. Joe is again seen limiting Janie. Joe, the mayor, with all his class and wealth, still cannot seem to make his wife happy. Hurston shows us a bitter sweet side to their relationship.
Janie would love to indulge and talk to the porch sitters yet she holds back with respect to Joe and their relationship. This is only the second of many instances of when Janie feels no need for material security but rather happiness. Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake allowed for her to see how unimportant material security was to feel content and happy with her relationship. At first, people try to tell Janie that Tea Cake is bad news because he is poor. [Janie]: “Well, is he – he – is he got uh wife or something lak dat? “… Hezekiah]: “No’m. And nobody wouldn’t marry Tea Cake tuh starve tuh death lessen it’s somebody jes lak him – ain’t used to nothin’.
‘Course he always keep hisself in changin’ clothes. Dat long-legged Tea Cake ain’t got doodly squat. He ain’t got no business makin’ hissef familiar wid nobody lak you. ” (11. 30-31) Hezekiah thinks Tea Cake shouldn’t be spending time with Janie, not because Tea Cake is a bad person or a criminal, but simply because he’s poor. To Hezekiah, social status is more important than a person’s character.
Janie doesn’t really judge people like Hezekiah does, which ends up serving her well because she develops a very close and intimate relationship with Tea Cake. In another instance, Phoeby and Janie are chatting about how restricting her other husbands have been. [Janie]: “Jody classed me off. Ah didn’t. Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain’t draggin’ me off nowhere Ah don’t want tuh go. Ah always did want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn’t flow me tuh. When Ah wasn’t in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid folded hands and sit dere. And Ah’d sit dere wid de walls creepin’ up on me and squeezin’ all de life outa me.
Pheoby, dese educated women got uh heap of things to sit down and consider. Somebody done tole ’em what to set down for. Nobody ain’t told poor me, so sittin’ still worries me. Ah wants tuh utilize mahself all over. ” (12. 16) Janie was always viewed as a trophy by Joe, one to be polished and placed on a pedestal and never to be touched by others’ grubby hands. His treatment of her left Janie isolated and bored. While Janie doesn’t directly criticize people of the upper classes, she hated being idle herself and wants to be of some use, implying that high class idleness is essentially a waste.
Since none of those educated ladies probably know what they’re sitting around for either, the upperclass women must not be utilizing themselves in any productive way. Tea Cake is the only man she is been with that doesn’t make her do anything. She can finally be herself. This is one of the reasons the socioeconomically low everglades seems so appealing to Tea Cake and Janie, they both have no attachment to material security and goods which lets their love blossom. This is last and final reason why Janie feels no attachment to material security but rather a deep need for love and affection.
Janie learns that material security is not necessary to be happy through her relationships with Logan and his wealth, Joe Starks with his political authority and wealth and Tea Cake with his young and outgoing nature. There is one important thing the text teaches the reader. One is that to live a happy life, you must live your dreams and marry someone because you love them, not because of their financial security or material possessions. Humans will always continue to battle with symbiotic and nonsymbiotic relationships in society.