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Gender Roles in Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay


Men and women occupy very different roles; women are not only considered the weaker sex but are fundamentally defined by their relationship to men. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie encounters three different men named Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake. Each of Janie's three relationships helps her to grow into the self-actualized woman whom walked back into the town of Eatonville in Chapter 1 and endures the questions and gossips from the townsfolks on the front porch.

Janies first husband was Logan Killicks, Logan and Janie both has strong opinions about their expectations in a marriage. In the beginning it appears to Janie that Logan is a very nice gentleman, who is constantly treating her well. However as time passes, Janie see Logans true colours. Logan strongly believes a wife essentially exists to make life as easy for her husband as possible. He gradually increases the number of tasks he thinks she should do: cook, care for the house, now hes adding chopping and hauling wood to the list, and shortly afterwards including plowing and planting potatoes. Logan said to Janie: If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah fust wife never bothered me bout choppin no wood nohow. Shed grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten. (Pg26). Janie, however, thinks both spouses should pull their weight equally. In her mind, the man should chop the wood while the woman makes dinner. Janie soon does not realize that Logan is a type of man that does not take into consideration of Janies feelings nor does he treat Janie like a woman. Considering how much of a terrible husband Logan was, Janie still couldnt find love so she developed a mentality to continue to search for a new horizon that ultimately leads Janie to run away with Joe Stark.

After facing the hardship of Logans expectations, Janie was desperate and needed to run away in search for a brighter future for herself. For the first time in her life, Janie decided to run away with another man name Joe Starks her second husband who was a too much of an ambitious man. Joe said to Janie: You behind a plow! You aint got no mo business wid uh plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday! You aint got no business cuttin up no seed ptaters neither. A pretty doll-baby lak you s made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yoself and eat ptaters dat other folks plant just special for you (pg29). On the surface, Joe has a different perception of a womans proper role than Logan. A "pretty doll-baby" should be treated like an empress, never obliged to work and always served by others. At the beginning of their marriage, the young naive Janie does not realize that Joe doesnt think that spoon feeding a woman is necessary because shes a valuable human being, but because shes a valuable object. Janie only feels that Joe values her. But as she realizes that Joe values her as a possession rather than as a human being, she becomes emotionally distant. Joe forces her to tie her hair up because its phallic quality threatens his male dominance and because her feminine beauty makes him worry that he will lose her: But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It didnt seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store. (pg 55). Joes and Logans expectations of Janie are not so different after all. For Joe, women are objects to look at and Logan believes theyre objects to be utilized. It took Janie a very long time to have the courage to stand up to Joe and his big voice and in the end; Janie speaks out and lays out all of Joes crimes to him on his deathbed. Like the big voice he is, Joe refuses to listen and dies cursing Janie. After Joe Starks died, Janie was finally a fully bloomed flower that showed true colour; she could do whatever she like till her heart content without Joe constricting her nor did she had to stay kept in the shadows with her long hair tied up. Then comes along Tea Cake who flirted with Janie and offered her a game of checkers.

Tea Cake Woods is Janies true love. He wins Janies heart with his carefree, fun-loving nature. She adores his energy and willingness to make her his equal. We see that Tea Cake is fundamentally different from Janies former lovers when he teaches her how to play checkers. He set it up and began to show her and she found herself slowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play. That was even nice. She looked him over and got little thrills from one of his good points. Those full, lazy eyes with lashes curling sharply away like drawn scimitars. Then lean-over-padded shoulders and narrow waist. Even nice! (pg96). The fact that he considers her intelligent enough to learn such a game, it shows that he has a more modern expectation of women than Logan and Joe. His sense of gender equality continues when Tea Cake asks Janie to work alongside him in the Everglade fields. Both of Janies earlier husbands wanted her to work too, but she resented it. The difference is that Logan wanted Janie to do hard labor because he thought of her as an object like a work horse to dominate and utilize. Joe wanted Janie to work in the store, which she also disliked because Joe did little work himself and through forcing her to work he mostly wanted to publicly display her as his trophy wife and to prove that he was the boss of her. Tea Cake was Janies first true love; he was the horizon that Janie has been looking for all along.

In conclusion, Janie came back to Eatonville after Tea Cakes death as an independent and self-actualized woman that illustrates how the expectations of the men in her three marriages affected her as she progresses in becoming of age and the chapters of her life going through a loveless marriage with Logan killicks, a wildly unequal marriage with Joe Starks, and the death of a husband whom she loves, Tea Cake. Janie had encountered many obstacles in her life and she herself had been at the horizon and now shes coming back to make the final association between her memories and her future dreams. Although she cherishes the past, she does not see the future now as a bleak place lacking Tea Cake. Rather, Janies envisions her future as a time to cherish her memories of Tea Cake in her heart and wait for the time that she can join him in heaven.

He could never be dead until she herself has finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. Janie woods

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