Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama. Her writing career began at Howard University where she published her first story in 1921. In 1925, Zora moved to New York where she became one of the many writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Her life experiences in Eatonville and her research into black folklore greatly impacted much of her writing skills and techniques. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the character known as Janie is faced with some difficult relationships with three men forcing her to find out who she really is as a woman and what she wants to be.
By going through these different relationships, Janie eventually finds herself as a person and ends up actually helping another person see what love is about and how a true relationship should be. Janies first marriage with Logan makes her a stronger woman and shows her what she does not want in a man. She is forced into the marriage by her grandmother who wants her to be treated right and to be secure financially. In the beginning, this is not what Janie wants. She is not in love with him and she didn’t want to rush into a mariage.
Janie expresses this in the book and she “knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman”(24). When she is living with Logan, she realizes the he wants too much from her and she should not have to do some of the things he is asking her to do. She tells Logan that, “Ahm just as stiff as you is stout. If you can stand not to chop and tote wood ah reckon you can stand not to git no dinner”(25). This meaning that chopping wood is a mans job for him to do and making supper is a womans job for her to do. She feels that she should not have to do a mans job.
Janie becomes sick of living the life she has with Logan and finally expresses her feeling to him. She says, “Ah might take and find somebody dat did trust me and leave yuh”(29). Janie comes to the realization that this chapter in her life has come to an end. She soon meets a man by the name of Joe Starks who she feels will take better care of her and treat her like a real woman unlike Logan. When Janie leaves Logan and meets Joe who is waiting for her with a hired rig, she feels that, “From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything.
A bee for her bloom”(31). Janie and Joe then travel to Eatonville, Florida where Joe sees an opportunity for him to have a “big voice” in the town, which he had always wanted to have. Joe ends up becoming the Mayor, Post Master, storekeeper, and the biggest landlord in the town. Although this is all fine for him, Janie in the mean time is not happy with the relationship and struggles to deal with it. Over the years Janie places all of her old dreams into the corner of her soul.
She submits to Jody’s need for control on the outside but on the inside she hides her real feelings and her real self. At one of the town meetings someone asks for a “few words uh encouragement from Mrs. Mayor Starks” and Joe replies buy saying, “Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home”(41) After hearing this from Joe, Janie feels as though, “that took the bloom off of things”(41).
She is no longer truly in love with him anymore. After Joe dies, Janie feels free for the first time in years. Janie is in the room when Joe dies and soon after, she walks across the room to the mirror and tells herself that she, “The young girl was gone, but a handsome woman had taken her place”(83). Janie becomes a more independently thinking woman after his death because she doesn’t have the restriction that Joe forced on her. She is free from Joes dominant self and can now do what she pleases, which ends up being a very good thing for her.
After Joes death she learns that she can do what she wants to, no matter how other people look at her. After Joes death Janie meets a man buy the name of Tea Cake. She attends a picnic and goes fishing with Tea Cake despite Eatonville’s disapproval and realizes that, “Tea Cake wasn’t strange. Seemed as if she had known him all her life”(94) But, Janie could not bring herself to fully trust Tea Cake because of her last two failed mariages. However, once she and Tea Cake promise to share all experiences and opinions with one another, she opens up for the first time in years.
Janie and Tea Cake end up getting married nine months after they first meet. She truly loves Tea Cake which can be seen by the way she talks about him in relationship to Joe. She replies to some of the towns people saying, “Tea Cake love me in blue, so Ah wears it. Jody ain’y never in his life picked out no color for me. De world picked out black and white for mournin’, Joe didn’t. So Ah wasn’t wearin’ it for him. Ah was wearin’ it for de rest of y’all”(108). She is deeply in love with Tea Cake and letting the people know that she is over Joes death.
They have to let her do what she is going to do with the rest of her life without giving her grief. Janie and Tea Cake move to the Everglades where he teaches her how to hunt for animals and harvest food. She is truly happy with Tea Cake just sitting in their shack talking together, enjoying one anothers company. She finds who she really is when she is with Tea Cake. She learns that marrage is not about what someone does for a living or who they are in the eyes of other people but instead, that its all about the love and companionship for one another.
Dis ain’t no business proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandma’s way, now Ah means tuh live mine”(108). By the end of the novel, Janie has been through three marrages, her first marrage with Logan, then her second marrage with Joe, and then her last and only true marrage with Tea Cake. These three relationships helped her on her long road to finding what love is about and who she is as a person. She helps Phoeby learn this point of being in a real relatioship and being as two, a true couple.