Pushed, Chosen, And Choosing

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston,
was a novel about one woman’s self-revelation. It began
when she was a very young girl, first being pushed, then
chosen, and finally choosing. Born a victim of circumstance,
Janie was subject to her position in life. She was raised to
uphold the standards of the early African American
generation. From the beginning, she was taught to be passive
and subject to whatever life gave her. As she grew older she
began to realize she must give in to her desires and not
suppress them. Janie, the main character of the story, was
set up for her journey of self-discovery by her grandmother.
Nanny set a goal for Janie’s life by saying, “Ah wanted you
to look upon yo’ self. Ah don’t want yo’ feathers always
crumpled by folks throwin’ up things in yo’ face.” Janie’s
grandmother pushed Janie into a marriage, which she
considered a ‘safe’ place for Janie. Though hesitant, Janie
agreed to marry Logan Killicks. He was a farmer who
married Janie shortly after she completed school. Killicks
was the first antagonist that Janie encountered in the story.
He was there for one purpose, to destroy Janie’s new sense
of self-awarenes. Logan demanded things of Janie that she
did not wish to do and tried to push her into his mold of a
perfect wife. Janie did not love Logan nor did he love her.
She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew that she
didn’t want Logan Killicks. Joe Starks appeared in Janie’s
yard one afternoon. He said the sweet things that Janie
wanted to hear. Though Janie hardly knew the man, she was
chosen by his words—being young and gullible. She took
another step in her journey, leaving Logan the next day and
traveling to Eatonville with Joe Starks. Aspiring to be the
mayor of Eatonville, Joe Starks was a man concerned with
little except power. He wanted it, and he was going to use
Janie to get it. She wore nice dresses during this marriage
because Joe wanted her to stand out from the rest of the
town; he used her as an icon of his prosperity and power.
He was cruel to Janie and stomped out all of her free will.
He built his town of Eatonville, became the mayor crushing
all in his path, and made many enemies along the way,
including Janie. During the period that she was married to
Joe Starks, Janie was not allowed to talk and act as herself,
but she began to think for herself—never revealing to Joe
how she felt until just before he died. Playing with the hand
she dealt herself, she did what he told her, and refrained
from leaving Joe Starks physically until after his death;
though, her heart left him long before. Shortly after Joe’s
death, not mourning any long than grief, Janie became the
figurehead of her personal ship. Over time, she learned that,
all along, she had this growing feeling inside her that
something was missing—possibly her lack of
self-confidence. She chose a new path, seeking her dreams
and her identity. Previously the mayor’s wife, Janie
encountered many suitors after Joe’s death. She believed
they were in it for her wealth and was very skeptical of the
men that confronted her. Tea Cake offered Janie a new
direction and didn’t seem to care about her material wealth.
He showed her a good time. Not only did she desire a
marriage, but a friendship also—and she found this with Tea
Cake. They were married, and he took her to live in the
Everglades. She began to wear blue and the things Tea
Cake liked to see her in. She spoke her mind and acted on
her instincts, never holding her feelings back. However, she
became what she set out to be after her marriage with Tea
Cake. Janie returned to Eatonville after Tea Cake left her in
a coffin, and the book ends where it began, as Janie finishes
her dialogue with her friend Pheoby. She walked back into
town, with her head high upon her shoulders. She was truly
her own person—proud and sure of herself and her place.
Though confronted with compelling desires for others to
maker her a “proper woman,” Janie became independent
and free willed by the end of the novel. She overcame the
standards of the early African American generation—to have
no opinions or inner-initiative.

Category: Book Reports