“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a story written by Zora Neale Hurston and it describes life’s hardships that an African-American woman experiences. There are many factors, both social and personal that influence Janie’s life, and provide an insight into a person’s emotional being.
It supposes alternatives that were not possibly considered at the time and raises doubts as to the correctness of the decisions that were made. It also makes the audience think of their own ways of behavior and attitudes in a situation that could be similar or cases that might indirectly relate to the actions taken.
The book describes times that are much different from the present. Socially, the events that took place were looked at very uniquely in the time described. This proves how much society has an influence on the people and the way they understand the surrounding world. The book focuses on two aspects of life.
One is the position of a person within a community or greater society. Janie is described as a good looking woman who has an influential husband. Right away this arises jealousy, as the majority of people do not have the wealth that they want or the tools to provide for themselves. But in addition to the gossip that goes on outside the house, Janie does not get the freedom and emotional satisfaction that she wants.
Even though the bond between a husband and wife is considered to be one of a kind, Jody controls and forbids his wife the freedom because of own insecurities. Jody cuts off communication between Janie and others, as he fears she will leave him for someone else. He also does not like that others can see her and this leads to him to be even more strict with Janie.
Not only there has been a gender difference between men and women in life and social environment, but century-old “traditions” and external conditions of the world add to the role division. It is a sad truth that there was and still is a time where women are regarded as beings who must please their men and not have lives of their own. One explanation of such treatment which is commonly refuted is the biological theory.
Women were naturally made inferior to men because they are physically weaker. This is a false concept, as the word “weaker” is very perceptive. It is true that men are genetically qualified by having more muscle and bone mass, but that does not mean that they are quicker or that women are not able to develop the same muscle power. The mental abilities are also a major part of the relationship.
The way Jody morally presses down on Janie and makes her feel insignificant has a major influence on her well-being. The mistake that humanity has made is that authority over strength and resources transferred to authority over women, their rights and freedoms. It has become so much enrooted into daily life that females were forced to develop a complex of inferiority. Janie and Jody’s relationship bases itself on ruling and domination over rights and qualities of women.
There is no denying that this sort of division has created more problems than solutions. In fact, there is absolutely nothing positive in male dominance and it is possible to assume that humanity might have developed in a more efficient and positive way if women were allowed greater participation in the social and family matters.
It is a sad truth that even great thinkers have attributed negative qualities to women and made men seem better and more dominant. This shows how limited the conceptual framework of a society and an individual brain can be.
The abuse and bigotry that women have been suffering for centuries have led to women’s rights movement and anti-discrimination laws that are present in modern society. But even considering all the changes that have happened recently, the world is still a male-dominated society. Women are being paid less for the same jobs as men, they are not as easily promoted, and politics are very much dominated by men.
The physical and mental abuse is commonplace, and this proves how much male dominance is instilled in biology, but majorly in the social lives of people. Research studies and experiments that were conducted and compared men’s and women’s intelligence showed no difference. The biological and genetical “evidence” has also been refuted because there are no particular criteria that can be compared.
The modern intellectual development has also shown that there are neither conceptual nor environmental perspectives that define men as being stronger or more superior to women. It is certain that the present days have much changed and there is a great shift in the way masculinity and femininity are viewed.
Personal emotions of a woman come into play when Janie realizes she wants love and affection. It is characterized by a close relationship where every little nuance is not being supported by the partner, and so, it becomes evident why she was so eager to move on with her life. This represents important concepts of self-sacrifice, love and victimization of the times. The heroine distances herself from her own goals in life, as she must be the wife her husband requires her to be.
This is a sort of thing that only a devoted wife can do, and this would be very much true at any point in time during human history. Another perspective offers the absence of any other option. Janie was very much weakened by Jody in her own morals and could not decide to make a drastic move. Her self-confidence was very low, but she was still hoping for a bright future.
Zora Neale Hurston wanted the readers and societies to look deeper, beyond the surface and into people’s morality towards good and evil, the forces that are present in every world. There is no denying that a person can hardly control the time and place they grow up in. When a person is born, they are influenced by their family and society. A connection is made between the role of the heroine, the time period, and her husband’s position in the community.
The evil and immorality that always exist in the world are shown to be very hard on Janie’s character, as she has nothing left to believe in, except a dream-like future. She has abandoned all her wants and needs and focused all strength on the present.
The absence of social support and because people could not protest to show how hard it was for them emotionally and physically, describe the environment of the norms that were present at a particular time. Janie and her role are still very real today and serve as a reminder of how sensitive and fragile women’s world is.
Another theme is that Janie always found the best way to deal with the issue and did it without any back thoughts, which proves clarity of the mind and respect for the self. Even all the gossip and provocations that were happening behind her back were not felt by her. When Jody falls ill, Janie’s mental depression and fear get a hold of her and shake the usual determination and clear thinking.
A person in a nervous state cannot think straight because the emotional pressure is so great it blocks and confuses any directed thinking, making the person a victim of their own sorrow and sadness. She tells Jody how he made her feel all those years. After her husband dies, Janie feels free for the first time in a very long time. Even though this might be a sad time for her, she realizes that there will be new possibilities and her long-awaited bright future is still possible.
Everything changes when she meets Tea Cake. She feels the connection and receives the affection that she deserves. This shows that all her life she was hoping for pure and honest love. In the end, all a person wants is respect and mutual understanding. She has finally received the ability to feel all the things that must be present in a relationship. Unfortunately, two years after her marriage to Tea Cake, he gets bitten by a dog and gets rabies.
As he cannot think clearly, he starts suspecting Janie and blames her for cheating on him. This is ironic because even the man she was happily married to accused her of cheating. As a result, Tea Cake starts shooting at Janie and she is forced to defend herself by killing him.
The common theme of the book and the social lives of women is that in a relationship, there are often suspicions and the jealous person can never fully trust their partner. Even when people are in love, their overwhelming feelings do not allow them to fully trust the person and they start creating images in their mind that is full of an unreasonable jealousy.
The author very vividly illustrates human emotions and what comes out of relationships, mistrust, social inequalities and personal insecurities. People often become victims of own problems and judge others by own standards. Even though some things in life require sacrifice and blind devotion, it is better to be truthful to yourself and live an honest life. It was possible for Janie to end her marriage, even if Jody would become violent, she had an ability to look for help among other men who were interested in her.
Of course, she could run away and risk her well-established life, but she chose to stick by her husband. Maybe, deep down, she thought that her position in society was worth her being unhappy in marriage. Overall, the book presents many moral lessons that each individual must understand.
Zora Neale Hurston did an excellent job in providing a glimpse into the social life of an African-American woman and her personal life. There are many works that reassure people that honesty and devotion pay off, but if one waits for them too long, they might be left with nothing.