This book narrates the narrative of Janie’s search for love via the use of a frame. Returning to Eatonville, Florida after two years away, Janie is delighted to see her old friends and family again. Neighbors are wondering where she is and what occurred to her. They don’t understand why she’s wearing soiled overalls again after departing in bridal satin (Hurston)
Janie hopes that her relationship with Logan Killicks will be a happy one, and she wants them to be in love. At times, “Ah wants to want him.” She tells her grandma that she does. Janie and Nanny have very different views on marriage. A happy and safe life is what Janie should have, not what she had. It’s different for Janie. She wants a marriage where the two of them will always love each other, no matter what happens. Nanny’s hopes for Janie’s marriage were good, but this marriage made Janie feel miserable and alone. Even though Janie doesn’t want to get married, she hopes that her marriage with Logan grows and their love for each other grows. “Ah wants to have a good marriage,” she says. “It’s like when you lay down under a pear tree and think about things.” Janie, on the other hand, still in her first two months feels lonely in her marriage. She describes Logan’s home as “a lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods where nobody had ever been.” Janie’s hopes for love and marriage are shattered, making her feel more alone and isolated than she has ever felt. In this chapter, Janie has a very important thought about love and marriage. She now knows that “marriage did not make love.” This is the point when Janie’s fiction of happiness and love comes to an end, and she has to change from the childlike young girl she was when marrying Logan Killicks into a woman.
Janie’s companion Pheoby Watson comes to Janie’s back door and introduces the novelist. Since Janie and her two pals met for an afternoon visit that span nearly four decades, the story is “framed” by this one afternoon. The focus of Janie’s story is on love, and how she sought it out in four different relationships. First, she turned to her grandmother, who had raised her. Janie’s first husband, Logan Killicks, was a conservative old potato farmer who Nanny believed would provide Janie with security, so she turned to him for affection. Her third boyfriend was none other than Joe Starks. A long-term relationship with the mayor’s wife provided her both financial stability and a high-profile role in the community. While Joe was charismatic and accomplished, he had little comprehension of Janie’s simple need to be loved and respected. Janie’s marriage deteriorated as a result. At the end of the novel, we meet Janie, who has grown old and experienced the adventures she would later narrate, and has traveled “tuh de horizon and back.” Pheoby’s story begins to unfold as she tells hers. Consequently, the book is structured primarily as an act of narration rather than a piece of writing; the language is fundamental to the novel from the beginning. Rumors on the porch begin to spread before Janie’s response. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air. “Words that have no masters” Throughout the narrative, communication, or rather, the ability to speak fluently, is shown to be crucial. To begin, the novel’s core and complicated importance in terms of communication is established in these early chapters (Hurston, pg. np).
Following the death of Jody, Janie leaves the materialistic objectives of her previous first two husbands (and later, Nanny, encouraged Janie to get married for money in the place) and enables her to fall in love for Tea Cake, a guy significantly poorer and younger than herself. Janie’s journey toward a more formed sense of self is aided by Tea Cake. He allows Janie to participate in traditionally “men-only” activities and introduces her to the pleasures of a love that generates “a lot of laughter out of nothing.” Janie begins speaking up for herself when Tea Cake disappears for weeks or associates with multiple other women, an act to which Tea Cake does not answer with quiet but with apology and debate. When the novel’s dangerous and climactic cyclone gains momentum. With Tea Cake, Janie’s “soul crept out of hiding,” and she now realizes what it’s like to endure “self-crushing love” (Hurston, pg. np).
Tea Cake goes nuts after the hurricane because he was attacked by a rabid dog while the hurricane was going on. Janie’s love for Tea Cake and her dread of being murdered by him force her to make the most difficult decision of her life: to shoot him. Because of the pear tree, Janie has been searching for the kind of self-actualization that comes from real love. After a few days, Janie was in court to defend herself, and the jury “all leaned forward to concentrate while she talked.” Nanny, Logan, Jody, and the talking neighbors don’t see Janie at all at the beginning of the story. At the end of the novel, Janie comments, “Here was calm.”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their eyes were watching God. Prabhat Prakashan, 2020.