Janie's Self-Realization: Facts and Disputes
Janie, in Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, was a unique individual; as a half-white, half-black girl growing up in Florida in the early 1930's, a lifetime of trials and search for understanding was set for her from the start. As the main character she sought to finally find herself, true love, and have a meaningful life. Growing up, in itself, provides a perfect opportunity for finding that essential state of self-realization and ideal comfort. Michael G. Cooke reviews Their Eyes Were Watching God in his article "The Beginnings of Self-Realization"; within the article it is falsely criticized that every time Janie is negatively impacted she grows to become more self-sufficient, however, was correct in observing that Janie has attached herself to images, and how the story helps show the record of black development from materialism to self-realization.
Starting out as Janie Crawford, a young and wishful growing teenager, her life was in full bloom and in motion. With the rest of her life to live, the many obstacles Janie faced weren't surprising but she did handle them and get through them. Cooke begins to tell the readers a little about Janie; "The more she is threatened, the more resourceful she becomes. The more she is deprived, the more self-sufficient she becomes" (Cooke Para 1). The story has many circumstances when Janie is literally threatened and deprived. Either physical, or ideological, Janie does not in fact improve herself in those situations while looking back at the book; there are many instances of Janie that can combat Cooke's theory.
In the process of building a relationship with Tea Cake, there was a time Janie failed to show a self-assured person when she didn't know where Tea Cake had gone to and was completely flustered at the moment. A confident, reassured person would coolly relax in that situation. Instead the absence of Tea Cake left Janie thinking about it all day and worried half to death. "Doubt. All the fears that circumstance could provide and the heart feel, attacked her on every side" (Hurston 129). When Tea Cake had left her alone, she was moody, and for the next few days until he showed up, she sulked throughout the days. This reliance on somebody else argues Cooke's point.
Near the end of the book, Janie's own life was on the line when she sought to escape the hurricane to come face to face with a rabid dog. Inescapable, the dangerous situation took her by surprise as she was struggling to even stay above water, let alone battle a dog. "Tea Cake split the water like an otter, opening his knife as he dived" (Hurston 189). The only reason why she survived was because Tea Cake intervened and suppressed the rabid dog; at his own expense. It's safe to say that without Tea Cake, Janie would have had difficulty in defeating the dog, if that were even a possibility.
Being deprived of choice and freedom because of her controlling, sheltering grandmother, Janie was forced to marry Logan Killicks. As her grandmother dies, it is Logan Killicks who becomes the only person in her life that will take care of her. But when asked to be a good wife and help out with the womanly duties she lacks working hard and threatens to leave and mocks her first husband. "'You don't need mah help out dere, Logan. You'se in yo' place and Ah'm in mine'" (Hurston 48). Janie had spit on the face of life's necessary hard work. She didn't want to be out in the field working diligently, she wanted to stay inside and watch other people work. Quitting and non-productivity are not part of being self-sufficient.
Certainly, Cooke's point could be improved upon, since there are many situations where Janie does not actually become resourceful, more handy. Yes, it's true it can be said she finally found what she was looking for, and achieved self-realization at the end of the story, but all the other times she was threatened, or deprived, she couldn't act...
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