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J A N I E

In Zora Neale Hurston s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Janie, a southern black woman, finds herself in several bad relationships before finding true love. Throughout the novel, being a dynamic character, Janie changes her ways in between each relationship. In Hurston s book, Janie grows from a wanderer to a martyr, before finally becoming a warrior.

Janie s life began when her grandmother raised her in west Florida twenty years after the civil war. Her conscious life began at age sixteen when sitting under a pear tree. At first, a reader could compare Janie to an orphan, but after being forced to marry Logan Killicks, she quickly becomes a wanderer. She moves with him to his sixty acres of land, and after discovering that she doesn’t love Logan, she soon abandons her hope that she will grow to love him eventually. Rather than her deteriorating marriage, Janie desires “things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think”. This is perhaps her first experience of true independence, a goal shared by many wanderers. She later met Joe and finds that he is unlike most other black men. She soon flees from Killicks to pursue a relationship with Jody. Like other wanderers, it soon became clear that she wanted to flee in search of new ideas. She also sees that Jody is unlike others, expressing an almost fear of conformity. After meeting Jody however, the reader is able to see more martyr characteristics portrayed in Janie s life.

Janie seemed to take her wanderer traits as far as the train to Eatonville took her. For as soon as she arrived, Joe became the center of the town and overshadowed Janie. At the town meeting, after Jody was elected mayor, her first prominent martyr characteristic was shown. At its conclusion the townspeople wanted Janie to say a few words, but Joe interrupts, saying “mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home.” In this, she shows the willingness of a martyr to hold back and stay out of the way in the act of unselfishness. After obtaining the first street lamp for the town, Joe reveals to Janie that he always “aimed tuh be uh big voice. You oughta be glad, ’cause dat makes uh big woman outa you”. That made Janie feel very uncomfortable, and as “A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far away from things and lonely. And again, like a martyr, she represses her negative emotions as not to hurt the others. She wears a head rag for him, sacrificing what she wanted for Jody s feelings. Janie begins to imagine a different future for herself, a future without her husband whom “there was already something dead about”. Like a martyr, she searches for goodness and cares of her own. In the final stages of Jody s life, her relationship is shown through Janie s sacrificing of herself to care for Joe. Tending to the store weeks after Joe s death,

A man walked into the unoccupied shop and Janie began to forgo yet another change.

What started as a stranger wandering in her store for some cigarettes, ended in the transition of martyr to warrior. One week after Tea Cake initially visited to the store, he returned and continued to make frequent visits. Two mornings later, however, Tea Cake arrives early, figuring “Ah’d try tuh git heah soon enough tuh tell yuh mah daytime thoughts”. They spent the night together, propelling their relationship to new heights. To Eatonville, Tea Cake is just a young man who is interested in Janie s property. When Pheoby confronts her however, she says, “Dis ain’t no business proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandma’s way, now Ah means tuh live mine.” Like a warrior, Janie s determination shows her willingness to mold or change another to suit her. After moving to the Everglades, Tea Cake finds a job and a place for them to live. She begins picking beans and joins the group almost like a warrior might join a team. While working in the field, Janie noticed a girl named Nunkie playing with Tea Cake. As expected of a warrior, she rids of the force by hitting Tea Cake and demanding an answer. When Mrs. Turner proposes she meet her brother, Tea Cake too exchanges a blow. Despite repeated warnings, her confidence leads her to believe that everything will prevail. However, when the storm gets bad enough they are forced to leave. In a frenzied escape, Janie s courage allows her to grab onto a cow despite the fact that it has a massive dog on its back. Seeing that Janie is threatened, Tea Cake jumps in. While attempting to kill the dog, he is bitten on the face. Tea Cake becomes ill to the point of dying, but Janie controls her emotions for fear of upsetting Tea Cake. When the time comes that she must defend herself however, she slays him like any warrior would be forced to do. After facing trial, she prevailed and was even forgiven by the men back on the Glades. The hardest thing she could have done was to kill her one love, but being a warrior, Janie was able to prevail.

Throughout Hurston s novel, Janie goes from wanderer to martyr in her harsh relationships, before finally becoming a warrior with her beloved Tea Cake. Not only did she grow, but she made Pheoby realize her life could be better too. In the end, Pheoby states Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus’ listenin’ tuh you, Janie. Ah ain’t satisfied wid mahself no mo’” Throughout her life, Janie had to do a lot of work, but like any true warrior would expect, it came with a prosperous reward; love.


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