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Janie Crawford’s School of Hard Knocks in Their Eyes Were Watching God


     Janie Crawford evolving selfhood through three marriages.  Fair-skinned,

long haired, dreamy as a child, Janie grows up expecting better treatment than

she gets.  Living life as one man's mules or another man's adornment.  Janie is

one black woman who does not have to live in lost sorrow, bitterness, fear, or

foolish romantic dreams, for Janie has learned "two things everybody's got tuh

do fuh theyselves.  They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about

livin' fuh themselves."  Janie Crawford is better off at the end of the noval

Their Eyes Were Watching God.


     Janie is confused when she was a young woman.  The noval explains her life

as a young girl. Her mother left her when she was really young.  Janie never

met her.  Her grandmother explains that her master raped her, "Den, one night ah

heard de big funs boomin' lak thunder.  It kept up all night. And de next

morin' Ah could see uh big ship at a distance and a great stirrin' round.  So Ah

wrapped mah way on down to de landin'.  The men was all in blue, and Ah heard

people say Sherman was comin' to meet de boats in Savannah, and all of us slaves

was free.  So Ah run got mah baby and got in quotation wid people and found a

place Ah could stay."  Grandmother was wanting to make a school teacher out of

Janie's mother.  Janie found out that a school teacher rapped her mother so she

never met her father either.  Janie's mother was seventeen, when she was

pregnant with Janie.  After Janie was born, Janie's mother took to drinking a

lot.  Janie's grandmother  raised Janie since she was born, grandmother says

"Maybe it wasn't much, but Ah done de best Ah kin by you.  Ah raked and scraped

and bought dis lil piece uh land so you wouldn't have to stay in de white folk's

yard and tuck yo' head befor' other chillun at school."  When Janie turned

sixteen years of age, her childhood had ended with a kiss from a boy named

Johnny Taylor.  Grandmother wanted to see her married at once but Janie did not

understand what was going on.  Janie did not feel love for this man or any man

at this time but grandmother explains that she is not going to be around forever

and she wants to protect her from harm and danger.  Janie's life as a young

person was a hardship she did not understand what purpose in life she has and

she does not understand what love is.


     Janie dreams marriage will bring her love.  Logon is a man wanting to marry

Janie.  Janie had no chance to know things, so she had to ask.  "Did marriage

end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated? Did marriage compel love like the sun

the day?"  After Grandmother's talks and Janie's own conjectures she made a sort

of comfort for herself.  She came to the conclusion that she would love Logon

after they were married.  "I saw no other way for it to come about, but Nanny

and the old folks had said it, so it must be so.  Husbands and wives always

loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so."  Janie

felt glad for a moment in her life she felt that for then it wouldn't seem so

destructive and moldy.  She would not be lonely anymore.  Janie married Logan in

Nanny's parlor. Janie felt lonesome when she went to Logan's house "It was a

lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods where nobody had ever

been.  The house was absent of flavor, too.  But anyhow Janie went on inside to

wait for love to begin."  After two months have gone by Janie had to reconsider

her marriage with Logon.  "Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an

orange time. Nevertheless, when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down

on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things."  She did not

know exactly what to expect.  "Janie knew that God tore down the old world every

evening and built a new one by sun-up."  Janie knew now that marriage did not

make love.  Her Grandmother dies and leave Janie to explore life for herself.

Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman.


     Janie's marriage with Logan is falling apart.  Before long Janie noticed

that Logan had stopped doing what he used to do to her.  He had stopped playing

with her long black hair.  He said "If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh

yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside.  Mah fust wife never

bothered me 'bout choppin' no wood nohow.  She'd grab dat axe and sling chips

lak uh man.  You done been spoilt rotten."  One morning Logan has to go to Lake

City to see a man about a mule.  Janie had started noticing how beautiful it is

outside and went outside.  Janie had been outside for a long time when she heard

a whistling coming down the road who she later found out his name was Joe Starks.

Janie and Joe starting talking and she found out that he was aiming to go down

to the new part of Florida.  He later decided he needed a rest so it would do

him good to rest a week or so.  Every day after that they managed to meet.  They

would talk about when Joe would become a big ruler of things. He spoke for

change and chance.  Still Janie hung back.  The memory of Nanny was still

powerful and strong.  Joe says "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."  Janie

debated the matter that night in bed.  That morning Janie hurried out of the

front gate and turned south.  She thought that even if Joe was not there waiting

for her, the change was bound to do her good.  After she came, their Joe Starks

was waiting for her with a hired rig.  He was a very solemn and helped her to

the seat beside him.  With him on it, it sat like some high, ruling chair.  She

thought "From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and

springtime sprinkled over everything.  A bee for her bloom.  Her old thoughts

were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to

fit them."  Joe and Janie were married before sundown, just like Joe had told

her.  Janie starts a new life with Joe Starks hoping to find love.


     Janie understands that she is an independent person it's she that makes her

not her husband that makes her.  On the train the day after they got, married

Joe did not make many speeches with rhymes to her, but he bought her the best

things the butcher had, like apples and a glass lantern full of candies.  Mostly

he talked about plans for the town when he got there.  Janie liked the looks of

Joe. Joe and Janie go to the new down and they noticed it was a major

disappointment.  People thought that Janie was Joe's daughter because of the age

difference.  Joe wanted to be a big voice in this town. Life went on in

Eatonville and Joe bought some more land for the town.  People were impressed

about Joe.  They astonished Janie to see the money Jody had spent for the land

come back to him so fast. Later ten new families bought lots and moved to town

in six weeks.  It seemed all too big and rushing for Janie to keep track of.

Joe had a store built for him, before it had a complete roof there where canned

goods piled on the floor and was selling so much he didn't have time to go off

on his talking tours.  The people of Eatonville have liked him so much they

decided to make him mayor.  Janie was talking to Joe "Joe, it jus' looks lak it

keeps us some way we ain't natural wid one 'nother.  You'se always off talkin'

and fixin' things, and Ah feel lak Ah'm jus' makin' time.  Hope it soon gits

over.  Joe says "Over, Janie?  I god, Ah ain't even started good.  ah told you

in de very first beginnin' dat Ah aimed tuh be uh big voice.  You oughta be glad,

'cause dat makes uh big woman outa you."  Janie soon began to feel the impact of

awe and envy against her sensibilities.  "The wife of the Mayor was not just

another woman as she has supposed.  She slept with authority and so she was part

of it in the town mind." Janie started to think the inside state of her

marriage.  She was not petal-open anymore with Joe.  She was twenty-four and

seven year's marriage when she knew.  She found that out one day when Joe had

slapped her face in the kitchen.  Joe had got really badly sick and died.  Janie

never loved him, and the first thing she did when he died was to get ride of the

embargoes he had put on her like him wanting her always to have her hair up.

Janie is finally starting to understand who she is and she understands what

independency means.


     Janie is going to do things her way not her grandmother's way.  After Joe

Starks death Janie spent six months or more grieving about him.  She would dress

in black and after awhile she dressed in white.  One most of the town went to a

ball game so the store was very slow.  A man came into the store and asked for

some cigarettes.  Janie later found out that his name is Virgibil Woods whom

everybody called Tea Cake.  This man did not want to go to the game.  He asked

Janie if she wanted to play checkers but she did not know how because nobody has

ever taught her.  Tea Cake showed her how to play checkers.  Janie felt good for

the first time, she did not understand what this feeling was "Janie found

herself flowing inside.  Somebody wanted her to play.  Somebody thought it

natural for her to play."  Janie looked at Tea Cake and like what she saw

"Janied looked him over and got little thrills from every one of his good points.

Those full, lazy eyes with the lashed curling sharply away like drawn scimitars.

The lean, over-padded shoulders and narrow waist."  Tea Cake came back a week

later for some snub.  Tea Cake told Janie that he loved her "Ah didn't aim tuh

let on tuh you 'bout it, leastways not right away, but Ah ruther be shot wid

tacks than fuh you tuh act wid me lak you is right now.  You got me in de go-

long"  Tea Cake was twelve years younger then Janie, Janie told him "Aw, Tea

Cake, you just say dat tuhnight because de fish and corn bread tasted sort of

good.  Tomorrow yo' mind would change."  Tea Cake disagreed to the comment and

Janie said that she would love to hear what he thought of her in the morning.

Teak Cake came back two days later to tell Janie his thoughts about her. Janie

was starting to feel what love really is "Janie awoke next moring by feeling Tea

Cake almost kissing her breath away.  Holding her and caressing her as if he

feared she might escaped his grasp and fly away."  After found days Tea Cake

returned to her Janie adored him and hated him while she felt how could he make

me suffer so much by not being here.  Janie and Tea Cake were to be married.

Janie's first dream has come true.  She has finally felt love.


     Janie's first love was her last love.  Tea Cake was a gambling man.  He

played dice, cards, or anything in which there was a stake.  At first Janie was

afraid Tea Cake was going to leave her because she had twelve hundred dollars

and it was missing she thought he took it and left her.  Tea Cake came back and

said that "Ah don't blame yuh but it wasn't lak you think."  Tea Cake had

promised that he would pay back every dime with his gambling and he did.  Janie

felt really wanted for the first time Tea Cake wanted her to participate in

everything that he did.  Tea Cake taught her how to shoot and hunt, play cards,

anything that he did he wanted her to do.  Tea Cake missed her when he was

working in the fields so he came back and sees her throughout the day.  Janie

finally went to work in the fields with him so they would be together always.

Janie and Tea Cake moved to the Everglades.  Everything in the Everglades was

big and new for Janie.  Janie learned what it felt like to be jealous "A little

chunky girl took to picking a play out of Tea Cake in the fields and in the

quarters.  If he said anything at all, she'd take the opposite side and hit him

or shove him and run away to make him chase her."  Janie thought that Tea Caked

loved this women and not her Tea Cake said "New, never did, and you know it too.

Ah didn't want her.  Mrs. Turner was a person that did not like black people and

she thought that it was such a sin for Janie to be married with a person so

black.  Mrs. Turner wanted to introduce Janie to her brother, Janie did not want

that, she had no feelings for Mr. Turner.  When Mrs. Turner's brother came and

Mrs. Turner brought him to be introduced to Janie.  When that happened Tea Cake

had a brainstorm and before the week was over he whipped Janie "Not because of

her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him.

Being able to whip her reassured him in possession." Later there were a

hurricane coming and Janie and Tea Cake decided to ride it out.  The hurricane

we much more then they had expected "Tea Cake touched Janie and said, "Ah reckon

you wish you had of stayed in yo' big house 'way from such as dis, don't you?"

Tea Cake was the only love Janie has ever had.  After the hurricane has passed

many, repair and work up was due.  Three weeks or so Tea Cake started getting

really sick.  During the storm a Wild Dog and got rabbis bit Tea Cake in the

face.  Tea Cake started getting delusional about things, the doctor wanted Janie

to sleep by herself.  Tea Cake could not drink water and he was dieing.  One day

Tea Cake started wondering why Janie was leaving, he did not understand that she

was going to the doctors to find if there was.  Janie really started to worry

about the well being of her life.  Tea Cake was confused about everything and he

got a gun and aimed it at Janie.  There were only three bullets in the gun and

he pulled the trigger three times on an empty chamber.  Janie shot and killed

Tea Cake in self defense.  Her first love was out of her life forever.


     Janie is better off at the end of the noval Their Eyes Were Watching God

then at the beginning. When Janie was a young girl she was confused about many

things.  Although her grandmother told her that marriage will bring her love

Janie finds out for herself that love must come first.  Logan treats her as

property not as a wife.  Janie understands that you are what you make your self

to be nobody else makes who you are.  Janie figures out that she must do what

she feels she must do not what her grandmother wants her to do.  Janie felt love

for the first time with Tea Cake and when Tea Cake was gone so was her last love.

Janie experiences a lot throughout the noval but the greatest thing she has

achieved is that she knows who she is.


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