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“Janie’s Journey to Wholeness: A Tapestry of Identity, Empowerment, and Resilience”


Zora Neale Hurston skillfully intertwines the compelling story of Janie Mae Crawford, a black woman on a burning venture to find herself and achieve wholeness as she navigates through life (Hurston 56). In many discussions with my classmates, I will unravel the strands of colorism, sexism, feminism, double consciousness, etc., woven within Janie’s story. In my endeavor to understand this travel employing the class notes and other sources, I will shed light on Janie’s travel, having identified her struggle with racial and sex discrimination obstacles along the course. Unpacking the societal layers hides Janie’s self-empowered story as it unfolds through hardships, triumphs, and decisive actions, culminating in a soul-baring revelation. In this detailed exploration, I will show how much Janie’s story resonates with everything we have discussed regarding the complex reality of black women.

Defining Wholeness

Janie’s attaining wholeness amounts to a significant regaining of control over the many aspects of an individual’s character, dreams, and fate. A complex process entails passing through self-revelation, personal empowerment, and persistent rebellion against societal ties. Wholeness weaves itself among the threads of experience spun together by the threads of resilience and self-realization in Janie’s story. Transformation makes Jane surpass the tight constraints of roles assigned to the subordinate black woman. She sets off on a liberated train of thoughts, her self-expression against societal norms (Serafin et al. 284). Each stride she takes becomes a great gesture of liberation, smashing down the prison bars on her unique talent.

Thus, Janie’s narrative can be read as an embedded expression of self-realization empowerment. It is not just her life but a journey towards an integrated sense of self as it is all-encompassing. Entrance to the furnace of her soul leads her to empowerment and discovery that helps her realize the essence of her being while revealing the direction she should take in life. Her life story is almost an organized rebel, resistance, and composure that many other black women are sending society. By choosing who she wanted to become and following her heart, Janie defied the restrictions placed on Black women and became an inspiration in a larger canvas of Black women’s lives.

Arriving at Wholeness

Janie’s movement toward being whole is dynamic, involving various significant connections, reflection, and an unwavering quest for integrity. However, the outlines of her odyssey emerge vividly in her first marriage with Logan Killicks, where society dictates the options for her. This is a tragic example of how others try to force Janie into the mold of a pre-deserved role. The final twist in Janie’s pursuit of harmony becomes apparent when she marries Joe Starks again. However, this union is an experience of self-discovery. Stark gives an impression of a prosperous family, but he suppresses Janie’s voice and autonomy, and she has to face the innate limits of black women. The constraints become real, making Janie rethink her life’s direction and how she has been viewing life.

Janie’s culmination phase is realized during her third matrimonial engagement with Tea Cake. Tea Cake is more than just a mate; he directs Janie toward a deeper exploration of her African-American culture and values, leading her to appreciate herself. In this relationship, Janie walks out of society’s standards imposed on her sense of worthiness (Shi 5). Through this character, Tea Cake represents the positive male camaraderie vital for African womanism; he helps Janie on her way toward wholeness. In Tea Cake, Janie finds the answer to who she is culturally and learns to appreciate herself on her terms, thus completing her journey to selfhood.

Pitfalls and Struggles

This is why Janie’s odysseys are ridden with many obstacles that result in the complexities we have discussed in our class discussions. Her marriages with Joe Starks and Tea Cage represent the normal sexist and patriarchal ideas that bind black women in American society. Stark is a metaphor for Janie’s struggle as a female trapped within a patriarchal society (Hozhabrossadat 7). These subtle aspects depict the bigger fight of black women for self-determination and independence. Furthermore, it comprises colorism, which also acts as an imposing opponent through Janie’s story but manifests subtly in her accounts through social illustrations of Janie’s identity. Janie has an African-American friend called Mrs. Turner, who represents how blacks segregate black people. However, societal prejudice and expectations based on skin color also form another strand of this intricacy, forcing Janie to look into it and have a negative perception of her situation.

On the other hand, Janie’s grandma, Nany, is the personification of the hidden aspect of the Mammyism archetype. In this regard, good intentions could not shield Nanny from imposing her understanding of a “happy life” onto Janie; as a result, this inner conflict presents black women with a dilemma between their ideals and what society expects from them. Nanny’s imposition is symbolic of the history and culture that shape and weigh the experiences of black women, the delicate relationship between what black women want and what society wants for black women. However, as Janie goes through all these pumps and trials, she becomes symbolic of a courageous person who pulls down a social norm that aims to put her boxed or enclosed. The quest for her true selfhood in multi-dimensional oppression makes yet another episode in a larger story of being an African woman — one that is strong enough.


“Their Eyes Were Watching God” depicts Janie’s struggles in the search for identity and fulfillment in society, race relations, and cultural concepts of gender. The conundrum of marrying Logan Killicks, entangled in the knots of intergenerational anticipation and cultural stress, is an additional issue. Nanny or grandmother also managed to live through slavery (Tasharofi and Afrougheh 3). Janie is forced into this marriage by her mother, who wants money for Janie and acceptance into society. Janie’s agency is now sacrificed for communal stability that necessitates compliance with standards. Her ambition to live an independent life causes her to marry Joe Starks. It is a delicate compromise between what the society wants and Janie’s desires. Initially, Janie meets Starks, a wealthy man who hinders her voice and enslaves her during her first complicated partnership. Therefore, it acts as a forum within which Janie explores the balance between society’s expectations and life’s happiness.

Janie’s choices end up with her at the pinnate of settling with Tea Cake. The last and perhaps most important decision lies far away from societal norms and family pressure. This will be about Janie’s identity, which she will show by stating that she chooses Tea Cake. Janie feels a type of love in Tea Cake that runs against the norm, expressing her desire for personal satisfaction and pure connection outside the normative patterns. As a result, these choices can be viewed as having a series of complex layers of contextuality through which Janie moves from conformity to authenticity. It is noteworthy that every individual move reveals the wider context in which White society endeavors to confine Black women into restricted societal compartments. Janie’s story is of endurance and authority, which cuts across the confines of African-American women. Such options make Janie’s journey a very intense journey for identity discovery, societal restrictions and definition removal, and completeness accomplishment.

Reasons for These Choices

In “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Janie’s life resembles a tapestry of poignant choices that depict her struggle to define her identity and self and confront cultural expectations, racial matters, and inflexible gender norms. The name of Nanny is Janie’s grandmother, a survivor of slavery, and the stability that marriage would guarantee Janie financially and in society. However, the agency through which Janie surrenders her private aspirations is narrow because it looks safer to follow conventional practices.

Joe Stark’s next selection is perceived as another rebellion against societal norms. Janie decides to seek independence and gets into a happy marriage that will allow her to enjoy material prosperity. However, it is a compromise because while Starks gave Janie material goods, he robbed her of her voice and self-determination. This depicts Janie’s quest for equilibrium between personal achievement and society’s demands. It is against societal expectations and family commitment for Tea Cake to be such a choice. Janie’s quest for self-realization eventually deviates from societal gender-based stereotypes and leads her to a relationship that brings about mental fulfillment. Tea Cake represents ideal masculine friendships that empower Janie’s personal development to cross the conventional societal boundary of her character. Exploration of social expectations, generational norms, and self-identity perception through Janie’s experience (Simone 1). It involves transforming complacency into the authenticity of defying constraints on black women. Therefore, Janie becomes more than just a character in a story but a picture of what a black girl must do to go against the racial and gender order. Each choice becomes another strand in the tapestry of the story, telling a story of achievement, education, and completion.


Janie’s story is a potent tale of the undying force, empowerment, and authority of being an African-American Woman. As a reaffirmation symbol of African womanism restoring her story, Janie relates to colorism as well as sexuality and societal expectations. Colorism underpins and sadly permeates Janie’s experiences during her transforming life and thus forms a societal perspective of Janie’s understanding of herself. The emergence of Janie as an African womanist enables her to combat sexism and challenge the societal prescription for what black women should be. Each marriage, for her, is a crucible from which she tries to emerge as an agent beyond the limited society that she is in.

Janie’s experience is now an event that forms part of bigger stories. It is not only her story but also that of any other African-American lady. Such limits mirror Black women’s struggles to endure within the larger societal context. Nevertheless, among this darkness, the lights of victory are Janie’s. This is because the story portrays Janie’s struggles and finding herself. Essentially, Janie’s story calls for all black women to embrace their rightful freedom by rebelling against the imposed obstacles in life. The position of Her Eyes Were Watching God is literary and shows how strong and resolute Black females are on the way to freedom and self-mastery.

Works Cited

Hozhabrossadat, Sepideh. “Illuminating nature and gender trouble in Zora Neale Hurston’s their eyes were watching god.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, vol. 4, no. 5, 2015,

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Collins, 2006.

Serafin, Anne, et al. “African Women Writing Resistance: An Anthology of Contemporary Voices.” Project MUSE, University of Wisconsin Press, 2010,

Shi, Long. “Black Feminism in ≪ I> Their Eyes Were Watching God</i>” Advances in Literary Study, vol. 08, no. 01, 2020, pp. 1–7,

Simone, Nina. “Nina Simone – Four Women (Audio).” YouTube, 21 Oct. 2022,

Tasharofi, Parmis, and Shahram Afrougheh. “Nanny’s slave narrative in Zora Neale Hurston’s eyes were watching god: A black feminist reading.” The Anthropologist, vol. 18, no. 3, 2014, pp. 751–759,


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