Their Eyes Were Watching God



Janie—Janie’s character is revealed throughout the course of the narrative. In her adolescence, she is shown to be a happy, innocent child. Her carefree, blissful days are illustrated by the fact that she sees no difference between herself and the white children she plays with. As she grows and her body matures, she begins to identify with the spring and the blossoms on the pear tree. She feels a strong, confidence in the power of love, and recognizes it as the force which makes the flowers bloom and the air move. It is this love that she wants to follow and unite herself to. It is this love that she wants to be subject to.

Thus, when she allows a boy to kiss her, it is a normal course of action for her. But her Nanny sees it as a danger. She cautions Janie by telling her own story of how she was used and abused in the days of slavery, and how her own daughter Leafy ran off and abandoned Janie to her care. She wants Janie to marry quickly and respectably so that she will have the safety and security that a man can provide. Janie wants to marry for love—but security is Nanny’s concern. So Janie marries for security and hopes that love will follow.

But love does not follow, and Janie flees one relationship for another. In her second marriage, she resigns herself to her role—but she is not happy. Janie is not made happy until Tea Cake arrives. Tea Cake is Janie’s true love—and she completely gives herself over to him and becomes a kind of slave of love. But it is a happy slavery—and Tea Cake and Janie are like two children again.

Even though Tea Cake dies, too, Janie does not lose her love. She keeps it with her and knows that it waits for her on the other side of the grave. She trusts to the power of love—the dream of love—which she knows is real because she has sensed it in nature and experienced it with Tea Cake. It is this love that Janie meditates upon at the end of the novel.

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