Looking for the Horizon with Tea Cake in "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston centers around the life of Janie Crawford, an African American young woman, who is seeking ‘the horizon’ comprised of ideal living, experiences, and authentic love. After having two failed marriages, Janie meets Tea Cake, a suave, charming younger man who truly loves Janie. By exposing Janie to the world, and providing her with experiences and memories, Tea Cake directs her to the ‘horizon,’ where she can lead a fulfilling life. The selected passage begins as Janie concludes sharing her story with Phoeby. The flashback comes to its end, and the setting returns to Eatonville, Florida. I selected this passage because it reveals the great impact that Tea Cake has had on shaping Janie’s life.

Reflecting on her journey, Janie is genuinely fulfilled. With help from Tea Cake, she has experienced the life.

Janie gets a chance to live according to her principles. She is not confined to Nanny’s materialistic view of love. Nor bent to assumptions of the society. She goes ‘tuh de horizon and back.’ The symbol of horizon serves as an idealistic way of living and true love for Janie. Tea Cake guides her to the ‘horizon’- to life and genuine love. He shares the world with her. His world is composed of feelings, music, fishing, gambling, good and bad experiences, and love.

It is of significance to note Hurston’s choice of the word ‘strong’ in describing Janie’s feet. ‘Strong feet’ evokes the image of masculinity and contrasts with Janie’s attractiveness and femininity. Janie presumably developed ‘strong feet,’ due to the labor she was exposed to, for the first time in Everglades. However, instead of conveying the message of masculinity, ‘strong feet’ offers Janie with memories, experiences...

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... her ‘feelings for some man she had never seen.’ (85).

Ultimately, Tea Cake, Janie’s third husband guides her to the horizon. He does not attempt to buy her love. Instead, he introduces her to world: to love, dancing, music, work, nature, jealousy, gambling, and fishing, among other experiences. Unlike Joe, Tea Cake treats her as an equal, who has an intellectual capacity to learn how to play checkers and to shoot a gun. In Everglades, he does not insist on Janie to work in the field, instead he asks her to work. The genuine mutual love is present in Tea Cake and Janie’s marriage. Unlike with Joe, Janie opens herself to Tea Cake and lets ‘her soul crawl out from its hiding place’ (151). Tea Cake leads Janie to the horizon, despite his death. She cherishes the memories and experiences shared with Tea Cake as ‘she pull[s] in her horizon like a great fish-net’ (227).
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