How is love to influence our lives? Love-struck people do crazy things to express how they care for that particular person yet it is a long and windy road to these actions. It is down this path that experience spawns and trouble and happiness are felt. Janie Crawford of Zora Neale Hurstons Their Eyes Were Watching God, shows the road through the steps of her three relationships. These relationships, though not fulfilling ones, conclude in bettering Janies search and understanding of life.
Johnny Taylor, Janies first kiss and gatekeeper to her future, When Janie was sixteen, she embarked on a sexual awakening. Johnny Taylor was a poor young man who lived in the Florida area. Janie allowed him to kiss her over the fence. Unfortunately, Nanny saw everything. With Nannys horrendous background of sinful deeds done to her, she wanted the best for Janie. As she saw the kiss, the doors of life opened for Janie and Nanny wasnt going to have her make the same mistakes that she had. Yet, Nanny had been impregnated under the circumstances of being a slave and this was not the case for Janie.
Nanny stated that black women were the mules of the world, but she didn’t want Janie to be a mule. She wanted to see Janie in a secure situation before she died, and Logan Killicks could provide that. Janie did not want to marry Logan, but she did so because Nanny told her that she would eventually come to love him. Ironically, Logan wanted to force Janie into the servitude that Nanny feared. Also, he was disappointed that Janie never returned his affection and attraction. If he could not possess her through love, he would possess her by demanding her submission.
At heart, his actions arose from the fear that Janie would leave him. Two months after her marriage to Logan, Janie visited Nanny to ask when she would start loving him. Nanny berated Janie for not appreciating Logan’s wealth. Although Logan pampered Janie for a year, he began complaining that she was spoiled. That night, Logan criticized Janie for being spoiled and lazy. Janie voiced his deepest fears when she suggested that she might leave him. Logan reminded her of her family’s reputation, hoping to hurt her feelings.
Turning to these drastic of measures blew Janie into a frenzy and she left with a smooth-talking gentleman that very next day. Janie chose to leave Logan for Jody because he revived her dreams of love in marriage. Her first marriage had taught her that marriage and love do not go hand in hand. However, she still believed that love was the best motivation for marriage. Jody promised that he would never turn Janie into a common pack mule. He promised her that she would reap all the benefits of his work.
His words eerily echo Nanny’s dream of respectability and financial security for Janie. However, Janie didn’t marry Jody because of these promises. She married him because he inspired the feelings she had experienced while sitting under the blossoming peach tree when she was sixteen and the moment her womanhood became crystal clear. Ironically, Janie’s marriage to Jody was the very embodiment of Nanny’s dreams for her. Unlike Logan, he did not make her a pack mule. He gave her financial security and respectability. However, the marriage was largely an unhappy union.
Janie could not be herself around Jody. Moreover, Jody still used Janie as a garbage even though he gave her wealth and respectability. So it seems that Nanny’s worst fears and her highest hopes were realized in Janie’s second marriage. It was until one afternoon in the store that she met a lofty yet handsome young man who went, strangely enough, by the name of Tea Cake. Tea Cake’s courtship was different from that of Logan and Jody. Janie’s first marriage was more of a contract of sale between Nanny and Logan than anything else.
Janie’s second marriage was an escape from the first one. Moreover, it was based on disappointed dreams. Jody courted her by talking about himself and his dreams. Tea Cake, on the other hand, pursued Janie with a more romantic flair. Also, he allowed her equal footing in negotiating the terms of their relationship. Gaining personal freedom was a two-fold process. First, she had to be free in her private life, but she also had to free herself from restricting social attitudes. Only then could she begin to heal the rift between her outside self and her inside self.
She feels that what she has learned from her relationship with Tea Cake cannot be conveyed through words. Self-realization is a personal journey that can only be made through gaining life experience. Therefore, Janie acknowledges the flaws inherent in retelling her life, but she does not necessarily undercut the importance of having found her voice. Neither does she undercut the benefit of sharing her story with others. She doesn’t believe that her story should be the single, authoritative guidebook to self-realization. It can, however, inspire others to re-examine their lives.