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Their Eyes were Watching God: How slavery influences Nanny’s idea of Marriage

In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Heale Hurston a former slave named Nanny’s ideal marriage is if the relationship provides both protection and security. Although people always have their own perspectives and standpoints of problems that are different from others, Nanny’s own view of marriage is influenced by slavery and her ill-fated life experience. As a former slave, Nanny’s idea of marriage is influenced by her social status. Back to the years of slavery, African-American couldn’t get too much freedom, and they were treated as goods by their white masters.

Especially for the African-American women, they were at the bottom of the society which had made their lives even harder. The slavery had anchored Nanny’s mind, she believed that the best thing could happen to an African-American woman is to marry a man that can depend on, which the marriage can provide protection. Johnny Taylor is not the one because Nanny thought some trifling youth like him would ruin Janie’s life, and Nanny has chosen someone who is respectable, someone like Logan Killicks.

Nanny’s granddaughter Janie, a youthful girl who was born as a free child, she doesn’t have to go through the hard time as a slave that her Nanny has experienced. Janie believes that she should fulfill her own dream by marrying a man that she loves, and she disregard the importance of material wealth. Nanny has learned the lesson that love is not synonymous with love, and she thinks Janie is just too young to realize the truth. As a slave near the end of the Civil War, Nanny gave birth to her white master’s child, who became Janie’s mother.

But the white man disappointed Nanny when the his wife realized the baby is her husband’s, his wife went into a jealous rage; she declared that Nanny would receive a hundred lashes in the morning and watch her baby sold off when it is a month old, but he didn’t do anything for Nanny and his own child, and Nanny had to escape with her baby eventually. This painful heartbreaking experience has taught Nanny a harsh lesson that love cannot always be trusted; more than that, love cannot play a only part in marriage.

Unlike her young granddaughter Janie who is youthful and only sees the reason to marry is if is true love. he inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation”.

Janie’s youthful idealism leads her to believe that this intense sensuality must be similar to the intimacy between lovers, and she wishes “to be a pear tree – any tree in bloom! Nanny is much older than Janie, and she may already have felt the same way about love when she was in Janie’s age, but her experience tells her love doesn’t mean marriage. Nanny sees Janie as another chance for her to see her dreams fulfilled, but those dreams do not include Johnny Taylor. Even though Nanny was born as a slave, she had dreams. For she was a slave, Nanny didn’t allow doing more than dreams, but Emancipation gave her freedom and a chance to transfer those dreams to her daughter Leafy. Nanny was always hoped Leafy would become a schoolteacher.

Her hopes ere dashed when Leafy was raped by the town’s schoolteacher at age 17. After giving to Janie Leafy left one day and abandoned both her mother and daughter, Leafy has disappointed Nanny. Nanny had the opportunities to marry but she chose to devote her life to her granddaughter Janie, what she wishes is to see Janie become a good girl can marry a man which can give Janie protection. Nanny has chose Logan Killicks, a much older man, but someone who can offer Janie the protection and security of his age, plus a sixty-acre potato farm.

Nanny knows Janie has to be taken care by someone else, and it’s not someone Johnny Taylor, which can give nothing to Janie. In my opinion, Nanny’s idea of marriage is influenced by the slavery and her unsettling past directly. Nanny tries to protect her young granddaughter Janie by marrying her to a man that can give Janie enough to eat and wear. Even though Nanny’s idea of marriage is based on materials and she doesn’t care much about Janie’s feeling, she believes that everything she does is did it for Janie. She is just trying to do her best to keep Janie from suffering, and wishes Janie fulfill her dreams of freedom and joy.

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