In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie battles to find Individualism within herself. Janie, all her life, had been pushed around and told what to do and how to live her life. She searched and searched high and low to find a peace that makes her whole and makes her feel like a complete person. To make her feel like she is in fact an individual and that shes not like everyone else around her.
During the time of Their Eyes, the correct way to treat women was to show them who was in charge and who was inferior. Men were looked to as the superior being, the one who women were supposed to look up to and serve. Especially in the fact that Janie was an African American women during these oppressed times. Throughout this book, it looks as though Janie makes many mistakes in trying to find who she really is, and achieving the respect that she deserves. Living with her Grandmother and theWashburns, Janie was surrounded and raised with white children.
She always believed that she was white herself, and that she was no different than anybody else. As she was growing up, she was told what to do and how to live by her grandmother. Janies grandmother planned her life out for her. She told her that she must get married right away. “Yeah, Janie, youse got yo womanhood on yuh. So Ah mout ez well tell yuh whut Ah been savin up for uh spell. Ah wants to see you married right away.” Janies grandmother did want what was best for Janie, but she basically told her what to do instead of letting her know what she wanted for her. Janies grandmother told her exactly who she was going to marry and who she wasnt even to think about. “Whut Ah seen just now is plenty for me, honey, Ah dont want no trashy negro, no breath-and-britches, lak Johnny Taylor usin yo body to wipe his foots on. Brother Logan Killicks, hes a good man…..You answer me when Ah speak.
Dont you set dere poutin wid me after all Ah done went through for you!” She is basically telling Janie that she cant marry Johnny Taylor, the one she is exploring her womanhood with, the one she wants, and that she must marry Logan, for protection. Towards the end of the book, Janie resents her grandmother for “living” her life for her and planning her future. To find out what will happen in a persons future, they need to live their life on their own and not have it planned for them. They cant be told how to live there lives in order to succeed. To succeed, we need to learn from our own mistakes, and live with the weight of our decisions. This is exactly what Janie did in her marriage to Logan. She did as she was told, or rather, expected to do. Janie didnt want to marry Logan, but if it made her grandmother happy, then by all means, why not give it a shot. If it meant that shed be secure. In her marriage to Logan, she found out that thats not what she wanted. Janie wanted love, happieness, comfort and enjoyment.
She didnt want her first marriage to be like a prison sentence. “Did marriage end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated, did it compel love like the sun the day?” This is asking if marriage made love for Janie as the sun makes the day for the world. Is the basis of love marriage..just as the basis for day is the sun. To Janie, this was not true. She did not feel as though she loved Logan, and thats all she really wanted. She didnt want to be treated as the rest of the world was treated. She wanted to be treated as an individual and not as a slave. She was a slave to marriage. She didnt want to be there, where there was no warmth. Joe Starks stole Janie away from Logan.
He saved her from the boringness of their dull marriage. He woed her with his words of kindness. He promised her happieness. “De day you puts yo hand in mine, Ah wouldnt let de sun go down on us single. You aint never knowed what it was to be treated lak a lady and Ah wants to be de one tuh show yuh.” He wanted her to feel special, and be treated like she was somebody. Janie began to wonder if this was her conclusion to her search of her freedom. She figured that this is where her happieness was, and that Joe would give her all that she wanted. Together they built a life. Joe bought her things she never even dreamed of.
When they built Eatonville together, Janie expressed her feelings and opinions the way she always wanted to. She, finally, was her own self. Or so she thought. Towards the end of this blissfull marriage, she grew tired to this life, and the way Joe was treating her. He treated her special..but not in a unique sort of way like in the beginning. He started treating her the way everyone else was. She was expected to do things and dress and act certain ways. She was tired of being the one in charge in Eatonville. “She must look on herself as the bell-cow, the other women were the gang.” When Joe became the Mayor of Eatonville, she was in charge of many things. She was the leading lady. Although this was different than how her life was before, she didnt like having to take care of most everything. In the beginning, it felt important, but towards the end, she felt unappreciated for the things she had done, and it pretty much became expected of her. She seemed to become more of a problem than a solution. “No matter what Jody did, she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave some.
She was a rut in the road.” Being a leading lady in the town, she didnt like being in authority. She wanted to be treated respectibly, the way she was, but she didnt want that kind of relationship with the people. She just wanted friends..and not inferiors. So, Janie was not happy once again with her situation. Janie kept on searching for this hidden happieness that she knew she wanted, but could not find. She soon met Tea Cake. A man that made her laugh, made her happy, and made her feel as though she was the same as everybody else. “Then Tea Cake went to the piano without so much as asking and began playing blues and singing, and throwning grins over his shoulder. The sounds lulled Janie to soft slumber and then she woke up with Tea Cake combing her hair and scratching the dandruff from her scalp.” Tea Cake and Janie obviously shared a special love between them as their relationship grew. The things he did for her made her feel unbelievable. They did things she had never even thought of. Tea Cake took her places she had never been. “To Janies strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new.” Janie went to many new places and met many new people that she wouldve never met had she stayed with Logan or stayed in Eatonville with Joe. She wouldve just kept on living the same life..never doing anything new with the same boring people.
With Tea Cake, Janie began to work, and to feel a certain freedom she had never felt before. Janie found what she was looking for. She searched all her life to find what was within herself, and one special person was all that was needed to bring it out in her. Even though her and Tea Cakes relationship ended in a tragedy, she knew that he really loved her for who she was. She didnt need to be with him for protection, or she didnt need to be the leading lady of a town or a mayors wife, she just needed the right kind of love and affection to bring out what was best in her.