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Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God describes the life of a black woman named Janie. Janie is raised by her grandmother and begins a close to life-long quest that can be viewed as a search for many things. Most scholars believe that this quest is for independence; on the contrary I believe that this quest is to find someone that she can be dependent on, the kind of dependency that "singing bees" have for pear blossoms.
The first man that Janie is dependent on is Logan Killicks. Her marriage to Logan was partially arranged by her grandmother, Nanny. Nanny felt the need to find someone for Janie to depend on before she died, knowing that Janie would no longer be able to depend on her. This is the only time that Janie is relying on herself to get by, she cannot rely on nanny because nanny had no idea what she was going through as a young girl. Janie doesn't want to marry Logan then is coaxed into it by Nanny, who felt God was allowing her to live only enough time to find someone to protect her. "Tain't Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have, baby, it's protection. ...He done spared me...a few days longer till Ah see you safe in life."(p.15) After Nanny passes away, Janie depends on Logan, and despite her dislike for him, continues to stay with him. Logan only sees her as a servant to him, and doesn't want her anywhere other than the house, ."..mah wife don't know nothin' `bout speech makin'. Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's a woman and her place is in de home."(McGowan) Janie would have left him immediately if it wasn't for her dependence on him, and the need to find someone on whom she could depend before moving on.
The next man that Janie confides in is Joe Starks. Joe in a sense is Janie's savior in her relationship with Logan Killicks. Joe was a well kept man who worked for "white-folks" all his life and had earned enough money to move himself to a town called Eatonville that was run completely by black people. Janie meets Joe while she is still married to Logan and she begins to lean on him ever so slightly. She has wanted to leave Logan, and she wouldn't have if Joe had not come along. Joe convinced Janie that he would be better off for her by telling her, "Janie, if you think Ah aims to tole you off and make a dog outa you, youse wrong.
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"In the worlds of Nanny, Killicks and Joe Starks, Janie exists only as an object and is denied her own autonomous voice."(Racine) Jody (Joe) passes away and Janie seems to begin to rely more on herself, then she meets Tea Cake, and this time the confidence is different. I believe Janie depended on her past husbands for financial security, and protection from the outside world that she could not make a mends with. Janie's dependence on Tea Cake was a dependence on love, Tea Cake treats her the way she has always wanted to be treated, like the blossom to the bee. When Joe died, he left Janie with money and the store, but she had no one to love nor anyone to keep her company. She needed Tea Cake to fill this void in her life, I believe Janie realizes this when she says, "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 not Ah means tuh live mine."(114) "Janie's relationship with Tea Cake is not based on power or domination, but play."(Racine) Even though she seeks a dependence of love in Tea Cake, Janie still uses dependency to find satisfaction for herself. When Janie is with Tea Cake she feels complete in all aspects of life, and feels no need to depend on anyone else but him. When Tea Cake passes away we see Janie almost dependent soley upon herself, but she still confides in her best friend Pheoby when she returns home.
Instead of searching for a satisfying life of wealth, class and protection, like Nanny wanted her to find, Janie finds someone to depend on. Janie searches high and low for a soft heart to lean on after not finding what she was looking for in Nanny's suggested marriage to Killicks. Janie thinks she finds what she is looking for in Jody but later finds out that she is wrong when she is used as not much more than a storekeeper. So did Janie lead a satisfying life, even though it was full of dependency? That is a matter of ones opinion, but I believe that Janie finally feels like the "singing bee" being satisfied by the blossoms of the pear tree when she begins to depend on Tea Cake and lives her life loving and depending on him. Janie feels complete when Tea Cake is around and knows that no one else could possibly make her feel the way that she does in his presence.
Liberation & Domination: Their Eyes Were Watching God & The Evolutions of Capitalism. Todd McGowan. 1999. The Society for The Study of Multi Ethnics Literature of the United States.
Maria J. Racine. Voice and Interiority in Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. African American Review. Summer 1994.