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What Did Janie Discover About Love?

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Zora Neale Hurston has proven to be an extremely influential novelist who writes African American literature. She has written many successful novels, including her most popular novel called Their Eyes Were Watching God. This novel portrays the life and relationships of an African American woman named Janie Crawford. Janie seeks true love and self-discovery. In pursuit of these goals, Janie goes through three different relationships with three dissimilar men. All of these relationships help Janie to learn and grow within herself and her thoughts on love. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God Janie’s relationships with Logan Killicks, Jody Starks, and Tea Cake help Janie to achieve personal growth and development with love.

Janie develops and grows as a person after learning from her first marriage to Logan Killicks that she can’t learn or teach herself to love someone. Janie’s grandmother knows that she can only take care of her for so long, so she believes that it is in Janie’s best interest to get married to a man named Logan Killicks. Although Janie is not in love with Logan, she tells herself that even if she doesn’t love him right away, eventually she can learn to love him once they are married. In the text Janie comforts herself by thinking, “Yes, she would love Logan after they were married” (Hurston 21). This quote from the novel proves that Janie truly believes that she can learn to love Logan. However, Janie soon finds out that her expectation of finding love with Logan is not realistic. In “The Concept of Love and Marriage” Farah Abbas writes about Logan’s house and Janie’s relationship with him by saying, “This is not the place of dreams or the happy life that Janie expects. She needs a place to rear love and romanticism. She lives reluctantly with the old man and remembers the pear tree and its image” (Abbas 5). This example shows how Janie does not get the relationship that she expects to have with Logan. Her marriage with Logan does not include the love and romance that she has always dreamed of. Both of the quotes mentioned above add to the novel as a whole because Janie learns her first lesson about love; Janie can not learn or teach herself how to love someone. After coming to this realization about love, Janie decides to leave Logan to be with Joe (Jody) Starks. Although Janie is disappointed with how her first attempt at love failed, she still continues to think about how she can make her dream become a reality. After learning that she can’t teach herself to love Logan Killicks, Janie grows and develops as a person by becoming more self-aware.

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Janie also grows and develops as a person after her second marriage to Jody Starks when she realizes that love should be equal between the two partners. When Janie first meets Jody Starks, he promises her a life full of happiness, and he says that he will take care of her the way that she deserves to be taken care of. At first Jody provides for Janie the way he promised to, but soon enough Janie realizes how manipulative Jody truly is. Janie starts to understand that Jody sees her as more of a pretty object to look at, instead of seeing her as his equal. In the novel Janie tells Jody, “You sho loves to tell me whut to do, but Ah can’t tell you nothin’ Ah see” (Hurston 71)! Jody responds with, “Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves” (Hurston 71). This conversation proves that Jody does not see himself and Janie as equals. This clearly makes Janie upset because after Jody tells her that she can’t think for herself, she realizes that what they have is not true love. In “Illuminating Nature and Gender Trouble,” Sepideh Hozhabrossadat writes: “Janie understands she cannot expect any blooming from her marriage with Jody, and as days pass by it becomes clearer that their relationship is sterile” (Hozhabrossadat 4). This quote shows how Janie grasps the fact that her relationship with Jody is not only unequal, but is also lifeless and no longer going anywhere. A final example of how Janie realizes that her marriage is impotent and unequal can be found in “The Cognitive Construction of the Self,” where Patrick Bernard describes how during “a conversation with Jody, Janie defends “womenfolk,” disagreeing with the sexist claim that God made men “different” because they turn “out so smart” (70). When she states that men don’t know half as much as you think you do,” Jody interrupts her saying, “you getting too moufy Janie… Go fetch me de checker-board and de checkers (70-75) so that he and the other men could play” (Bernard 8). This conversation with Jody proves yet again that Jody does not view Janie as an equal partner. All of these examples add to the novel as a whole because Janie is able to come to the conclusion that her marriage with Jody is not an equal partnership. After learning from her second marriage to Jody Starks that love should be equal between two partners, Janie grows and develops as a person by becoming more independent.

A final way that Janie grows and develops as a person is after learning from her third marriage to Tea Cake how to love someone and how to find love in herself. Throughout most of Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake she is truly happy and in love. She finds joy in participating in activities that she never could before, including how to plant beans, go hunting, and how to shoot a gun. Readers can tell that Janie truly loves and cares for Tea Cake. In the novel, Tea Cake falls asleep and “Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place” (Hurston 128). This quote shows how Janie finally finds the love that she has been waiting for. The love that she shares with Tea Cake is so overwhelming that she no longer fears how intense her love for him is. This quote is essential to the novel because Janie realizes that it is all right to be vulnerable with someone and to truly love them. In “Self Realization in a Restricted World” Lisa Hawkes writes, “Her {Janie’s} relationship with Tea Cake marks the moment when she gets to live out the “self” she knew existed deep inside of her during her previous unhappy relationships” (Hawkes 2). This quote is another example that reaffirms how Janie finds the love that she has always dreamed of having. Janie is finally living the life that she has dreamed of having. Everything is working out in Janie’s life until she needs to make a decision whether to save herself or Tea Cake. After being bitten by a dog with rabies, Tea Cake loses his sanity and fires a gun at Janie. Janie has no other choice but to shoot him if she wants to survive. Although she loves him dearly, Janie ends up shooting Tea Cake and killing him. After killing Tea Cake, Janie learns her most important lesson, which is how to love herself. Lisa Hawkes writes, “Janie’s action of killing Tea Cake shows that she gains even more appreciation of herself given the fact that she loves him but places value over her relationship with Janie over all others” (Hawkes 10). This quote proves that even though Janie loves Tea Cake deeply, she ultimately decides to put herself before anyone else. Although she loves him, he is not an essential part of her life. He just plays the role of helping Janie to discover and better understand herself. Janie’s decision to choose herself over Tea Cake, shows that she never really needed to find love with someone else, all she needed was to find reliability and happiness within herself. After her third marriage to Tea Cake Janie grows and develops as a person by learning what love is, how to love someone, and, most importantly, how to find love within herself.

In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God Janie’s relationships with Logan Killicks, Jody Starks, and Tea Cake help Janie to achieve personal growth and development with love. From Janie’s relationship with Logan Killicks, she learns that she can’t learn to love someone and has more self-awareness. From her relationship with Jody Starks, Janie learns how to be independent and that love should be equal between two partners. From Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake, Janie not only learns how to love someone, but she also learns how to find true love in herself. Throughout all three of Janie’s relationships she is able to develop and learn from love.

Works Cited

  1. Abbas, Farah Mahmood. “The Concept of Love and Marriage in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” J. Of College Of Education For Women, vol. 22, no. 3, 2011, pp. 606-627. IRAQI Academic Scientific Journals, 8 Dec. 2019.
  2. Bernard, Patrick S. “The Cognitive Construction of the Self in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 9, no. 2, 2007, pp. 1-13. CLCWeb, doi: 10.7771/1481-4374.1221. 8 Dec. 2019.
  3. Hawkes, DeLisa D. “Self-Realization in a Restricted World: Janie’s Early Discovery in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The Journal of Traditions and Beliefs, vol. 4, no. 5, 2014, pp. 1-11. MSL Academic Endeavors, 8 Dec. 2019.
  4. Hozhabrossadat, Sepideh. “Illuminating Nature and Gender Trouble in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, vol. 4, no. 5, September 2015, pp. 124-128. IJALEL, doi: 10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.4n.5p.124. 8 Dec. 2019
  5. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998.

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What Did Janie Discover About Love? (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
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