Their Eyes Were Watching God: Janie\'s Great Identity Search


In the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, there
are many lessons on a person\'s search for identity. Janie\'s search for identity
throughout this book is very visible. It has to do with her search for a name,
and freedom for herself. As she goes through life her search takes many turns
for the worse and a few for the better, but in the end she finds her true
identity. Through her marriages with Logan, Joe, then Tea Cake she figures out
what is for her and how she wants to live. So in the end, she is where she
wants to be.
In Janie\'s early life she lived with her grandmother, Nanny. Nanny and
Janie were pretty well off and had the privilege to live in the yard of white
folks. While Janie was growing up she played with the white children. While
she was in this stage, she was faced with much criticism and was called many
names, so many that everyone started calling her alphabet, "\'cause so many
people had done named me different names." Soon she started piecing together
what she knew of her odd identity. Then one day she saw herself in a photograph
and noticed that she looked different, that she had dark skin, and she said,
"before Ah seen de picture Ah thought Ah wuz just like de rest." From this
point, Janie fell into somewhat of a downward spiral, setting her off of the
path toward finding her own identity in society. Finally when she was older
Nanny saw her doing somethings under the pear tree that she thought were
unacceptable. Nanny quickly arranged a marriage between Janie and a well-off
local man, Logan Killicks. In this marriage Janie resisted. She felt as if she
was losing her freedom was well as her identity, she wasn\'t Janie anymore she
was now Mrs. Logan Killicks, and she was somewhat obligated to do what he wanted.
Not long into this marriage, Janie has had enough, and when the chance to go
away with a smooth, romantic man, she takes the chance.
The man Janie left Logan for was named Joe Starks. Joe was a smart man
who started his own town, Eatonville. In the beginning of her relationship with,
Joe, she felt loved, something she never really felt while she had been with
Logan. At first, when she ran away with Joe, she felt as if she was finding her
new identity, but all there was for her to find was a great maze not always
heading her toward her new identity. While she was with Joe she felt as if she
had a position of subservience to Joe, he did not see her as an equal. When Joe
was nominated to be mayor, and the people wanted to hear from Mrs. Mayor Starks,
Joe said, "mah wife don\'t know nothin\' \'bout speech-makin\'." What he was saying
was that Janie wasn\'t there for her smarts, she was there to be his wife, to
beat for the show, to run the store and the post office, and most of all to be
Mrs. Mayor Starks. Throughout this marriage Janie as though she was losing
more and more of her identity and freedom in this marriage. By the end of the
marriage, she did not have her kitchen and house work that she loved to do, and
she had lost her name.
After the timely demise of Joe, another man came into Janie\'s life,
Vergible Woods, a.k.a. Tea Cake. He was an unpretentious man without the status
of high class, unlike Logan and Joe. He was just what Janie had wanted. Tea
Cake gave Janie the freedom to do whatever she wanted. He allowed her to play
checkers and talk to whom ever she wanted. The name issue arose again in this
relationship. When Janie was with Tea Cake most of the people called her
"Janie." By this time she had finally found her identity. She was just an
average person who wanted freedom and who didn\'t always like having complete
security. In her marriage to Tea Cake, Janie finally had peace and love. She
wanted to do most of whatever Tea Cake was doing. She did not feel any
obligation to work with Tea Cake, she just wanted to. So when she returned to
Eatonville in her overalls, she had inside of her, true inner happiness and
knowledge of her identity.
In this novel, Zora Neale Hurston shows many points on her view