Dependency in Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God describes the life of Janie, a black woman at the turn of the century. Janie is raised by her Grandmother and spends her life traveling with different men until she finally returnes home. Robert E. Hemenway has said about the  book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God is ... one of the most revealing treatments in modern literature of a woman’s quest for a satisfying life” I partially disagree with Hemenway because, although Janie is on a quest, it is not for a satisfying life.  I believe that she is on a quest for someone on whom to lean. Although she achieves a somewhat satisfying life, Janie’s quest is for dependence rather than satisfaction.

            The first two people Janie depended on were her Grandmother, whom she called Nanny, and Logan Killicks. Janie’s marriage to Logan Killicks was partially arranged by Nanny. Nanny had felt the need to find someone for Janie to depend on before she died and Janie could no longer depend on her. At first, Janie was very opposed to the marriage. Nanny responded with, “’Tain’t Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have, baby, it’s protection. ...He (God) done spared me...a few days longer till Ah see you safe in life.”(p.14) Nanny instilled the sense of needing a man for safety on Janie that Janie keeps with her throughout her life. After Nanny’s death, Janie continued to stay with Logan despite her dislike for him. She would have left immediately, however, if she did not need to depend on him.

            The next man Janie has to lean on is Joe Starks. He was a kind of salvation for Janie. He was a well-dressed black man who had worked for “white folks” all his life and had earned enough to travel to a place where black people ran the town. Janie met Joe while she was still married to Logan. She wanted to leave Logan, but I do not think she would have if Joe had not come along. Joe convinced her that He would be better for her to depend on by telling her, “Janie, if you think Ah aims to tole you off and make a dog outa you, youse wrong. Ah wants to make a wife outa you.”(p.28) Janie took this invitation as a way to leave Logan without losing the dependency she needed.

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"Dependency in Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Apr 2018
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            The last man she depends on in the story is Tea Cake. This is a different kind of dependence , but it is still dependence. Janie depended on the other strong figures in her life for financial security and protection from the world, but with Tea Cake depended on something else. When Joe died, he left Janie with money and the store but no one to love or keep company. She needed to depend on Tea Cake for love. I believe she realized this when she said, “Tea Cake ain’t no Jody Starks...but de minute Ah marries ‘im gointuh be makin’ comparison. Dis ain’t no business proposition...dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandma’s way now Ah means tuh live mine.”(p.108) She decided to seek a different type of dependence, but she is still using dependency to find satisfaction.

            Instead of searching for a satisfying life, Janie searched for someone to depend on. Although they were different types of dependency, she jumped from person to person so that she would not have to face life alone. Hemenway uses the phrase “quest for a satisfying life.” Does that mean that he thinks she achieved a satisfying life? More importantly does Janie believe that she led a satisfying life? It is hard to tell.

 

NOTES
***WATCH VERB TENSE, MAKE SURE IT STAYS THE SAME THROUGHOUT***


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