Bees and Pear Trees: Janie’s Unchanging Concept of Love

Topics: Love, Marriage, Zora Neale Hurston Pages: 5 (1704 words) Published: November 9, 2008
Love is different for each and every person. For some, it comes easy and happens early in life. For others, such as Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, it happened much later in life after two unsuccessful marriages. Janie’s grandmother, Nanny raised Janie to be attracted to financial security and physical protection instead of seeking love. Nanny continually emphasized that love was something that was bound to happen after those needs were met; even though Nanny never married. Janie formulates her ideal of love while sitting under a pear tree as a teenager; one that fulfilled her intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. She was then informed that she was to have an arranged marriage to an older man, Logan Killicks, who offered the very security and protection Nanny emphasized. After the marriage failed, looking for change, Janie ran off and married an ambitious, rich and unromantic man named Joe Sparks. Her marriage to Joe quickly became monotonous, and soon enough, Joe died of kidney failure. Later in the novel, Janie meets a poor, young and lovable man named Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods. Tea Cake surpasses her ideal of love. Janie’s view on love did not change throughout the course of the novel; instead her first two marriages engrained her wishes and desires further; all of which were fulfilled in her marriage to Tea Cake.

Janie’s relationship with Logan was exactly the opposite of her ideal type of relationship; not only did he treat her as if she was worthless because she refused to work for him, but the overall marriage was totally devoid of all emotion. Initially, Janie believed that her arranged marriage to Logan would eventually bring love, echoing her Nanny’s views in her statement “husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant” (21). However, she quickly learns that Logan, finds her useless, “spoilt rotten” and compares her to his old wife, who did manual labor for him without many complaints (26). Not only does Janie find Logan unattractive, but she does not even find him intellectually or emotionally stimulating, as he never shows her affection (24). Attempting to gain some perspective on how to liven up her marriage, Janie seeks out the advice of her Nanny, an unmarried former slave. Janie claims that she “wants to want him sometimes” (23), but her efforts are in vain. Due to the conditions Nanny was raised in, Nanny told her granddaughter that love was bound to happen eventually because Logan was financially stable. Nanny did not understand Janie’s wishes of love; she was on a basic level of understanding. While Janie obeyed Nanny’s wish of her to stay with Logan for almost a year, when Janie knew the marriage was headed nowhere except disaster, she runs off with a man named Joe Sparks who she had correspondence with for almost a year. Janie concluded from her time with Logan “that marriage did not make love” (25). Janie’s view on love did not change with her relationship with Logan. In fact, it was because of the horrendous outcomes of the marriage that Janie decided to chase after her ideal relationship with Logan.

Joe Sparks did not make time for Janie, would not let Janie have any freedom, and showed whatever little emotion he had for her in materialistic ways. Originally, Janie did not allow herself to be charmed by Joe because he did not represent her ideal form of love, namely “sun-up and pollen and blooming trees” (29). However, she later allowed herself to be charmed because “he spoke for far horizon… change and chance” (29), since she knew she desired a change from her loveless marriage to Logan. Later, she accepts his offer of marriage and ran from Logan, and was, as expected, overly optimistic about the future. She states “from now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything” and that Joe could be “a bee for her bloom” (32). Joe did not make enough time for Janie because of his...

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Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
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Stevens, George. "Review of Zora Neale Hurston 's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
The Saturday Review of Literature (New York Post) 18 Sept. 1937.
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