“Their Eyes Were Watching God” Story by Hurston

Pages: 3
Words: 957


Their Eyes Were Watching God is written by Zora Neale Hurston and published in 1937. This story is about Janie, whose life journey is challenging, and shows the girl’s struggle with building the life she wants. Although Janie wants to find love, she is influenced by her grandmother Nanny and marries a wealthy farmer whom Janie does not love. Her second marriage is also not a result of strong affection. The people in Janie’s life have more influence on who she is than she has over herself.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God is about the main character’s journey from repression to spiritual satisfaction as she struggles with the demands placed on her by others. As a teenager, she develops an understanding of love and tries to find a partner who would love her over the course of her adult life. Still, she experiences pressure from the people around her, which is evident in the following quote: “Janie took the easy way away from a fuss. She didn’t change her mind, but she agreed with her mouth. Her heart said, “Even so, you don’t have to cry about it.” This quote shows that Janie decided not to share her true feelings or thoughts with others.

Janie thinks of marriage and love in her mind as the highest achievement. Over the course of her journey and the development of her character, this understanding is tested. Initially, Janie’s view of love was inspired by a revelation she received as a teenager after witnessing a blissful union between a bee and a flower (Hurston 15). This idea of love is tainted when she marries Logan and, after that, Jody. Both these men, Janie does not love them and marries them to sustain her life, but these marriages prolong her loneliness. Janie’s quest for self-actualization, which manifests via sexual and romantic fulfillment, struggles to survive as Logan and Jody both stop “making speeches with rhymes to her” (Hurston 50). Hence, Jannie expects her husbands to maintain affection for her, yet she does not feel loved in these relationships.

After her second husband’s death, Janie abandons the materialistic goals of her previous two marriages. At this point in the plot, Jannie stops following the narrative that her grandmother created for her and decides to listen to her feelings. It is important to note that her marriage choices were influenced by her grandmother, Nanny, who encouraged Janie to marry for wealth in the first place. Nany’s view of the best life for Janie was a result of the former’s struggles, as she was enslaved and gave birth to Jannie’s mother after being raped by the white enslaver. However, Jannie grew up in different circumstances and did not have to follow the path Nanny chose for her.

The result of Jannie’s previous marriages is that she falls in love with Tea Cake. He is a man much younger and poorer when compared to her previous husbands. Tea Cake catalyzes for Janie to develop a greater sense of self. He allows Janie to join what she calls a “for-men-only” adventure (Hurston 200). Moreover, Tea Cake introduces her to the joys of a loving relationship, one in which they produce “plenty of laughing out of nothing” (Hurston 201). Hence, Jannie’s last marriage is a result of her own will and choice, unlike her previous alliances.

Evidently, the marriage with Tea Cake is something that Jenny has strived for all her life as she receives love and understanding from this alliance. Janie begins to speak up for herself when her husband leaves for days at a time or flirts with other women (Mambrol; Ramon). Despite this, the reader can understand that Tea Cake also cares for Janie. When the novel’s climactic cyclone picks up speed, Tea Cake asks Janie whether she wishes she could stay in Eatonville without him. The following quote explains Janie’s feelings: her “soul crept out from its hiding place” with Tea Cake, and she understands what it’s like to have “self-crushing love” (Hurston 200). These quotes support the claim that Janie has found her true love with Tea Cake.

At the end of the novel, Janie cannot sustain her true love. Tea Cake is bit by a mad dog, which causes him to act aggressively towards Janie (Hurston 210). Being in between her love for her husband and her fear that Tea Cake will murder her, Janie chooses to shoot him dead (Hurston 210). This is the second time in the novel when Janie chooses herself as opposed to acting in accordance with others’ expectations. Still, she loves her husband as she thinks that Tea Cake’s death would be “too hard to bear” (Hurston 260). Janie chooses herself, which shows that her longing for real love developed into self-actualization and self-love.

Janie must defend herself in court not long after clutching the dead Tea Cake to her chest. She thanks “him wordlessly for providing her the chance for loving service” (Hurston 210). Janie’s ending contrasts sharply with her beginning, in which she struggles to be heard by Nanny, Logan, Jody, and many of her neighbors. Janie ultimately receives what she always wanted at the end of the novel.


In summary, the book Their Eyes Were Watching God is about Janie’s journey. As a character, she develops from a young woman who follows the advice of others, despite her desires, to a person who puts herself first. Janie’s first two marriages were based on the calculations and the wealth of her husbands. Her last marriage was a result of love, but she chose to protect herself, which led to the murder of her husband. Hence, Janie has developed a sense of self-actualization and love.

Work Cited

Hurston, Zoe Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Collins, 2009.

Mambrol, Bursullah. “Critical Analysis of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Literary Theory and Criticism, 2021, Web.

Ramon, San. “Literary Analysis of Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neal Hurston.” TeenInk, 2021, Web.