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Janie's Metamorphosis in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story about identity and reality to say the least. Each stage in Janie's life was a shaping moment. Her exact metamorphosis, while ambiguous was quite significant. Janie's psychological identification was molded by many people, foremost, Nanny, her grandmother and her established companions. Reality, identity, and experience go hand in hand in philosophy, identity is shaped by experience and with experience you accept reality. Life is irrefutably the search for identity and the shaping of it through the acceptance of reality and the experiences in life.
Identity is something every human quests for. Individuals tend to manipulate views, ideas, and prerogative. Janie's identity became clay in her family and friends hands. Most noteworthy was Janie's grandmother, Nanny. Janie blossomed into a young woman with an open mind and embryonic perspective on life. Being a young, willing, and full of life, Janie made the "fatal mistake" of becoming involved in the follies of an infatuation with the opposite sex. With this phase in Janie's life Nanny's first strong hold on Janie's neck flexed its grip. Preoccupation with romantic love took the backseat to Nanny's stern view on settling down with someone with financial stability. Hence, Janie's identity went through its first of many transformations. She fought within her self, torn between her adolescent sanction and Nanny's harsh limitations, but final gave way and became a cast of Nanny's reformation.
For a short time Janie shared her life with her betrothed husband Logan Killicks. She desperately tried to become her new pseudo identity, to conform to the perfect "housewife" persona. Trying to make a marriage work that couldn't survive without love, love that Janie didn't have for Logan. Time and again Janie referred to love and her life in reference to nature, "Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think... She often spoke to falling seeds and said Ah hope you fall on soft grounds... She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether"(24 - 25). Logan had blown out the hope in Janie's heart for any real love; she experienced the death of the childish imagery that life isn't a fairytale, her first dose of reality encountered and it tasted sour.
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After Janie's short marriage with Logan she went off with handsome, ambitious, go-getter Joe Starks. The long marriage was bittersweet and full of emotional pitfalls from the beginning. In Janie's mind meeting and marring Joe was the best thing she thought could've happened to her, " From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom" (32). As Joe accomplished what he set out to do and his days became longer and his belly drooped and sagged, lashing out at Janie became systematic. The short and degrading comments made in Janie's reference only drove resentment between them. Janie grew strength and lashed back, becoming cold, disarming any fallacy, showing that she was growing into her own person and reality. She knew that she hadn't found her love at all, wasted her youth, effort and time spent on someone that didn't have her in body, mind, and soul. When Joe died, Janie seemed to think of him as a dream, a distant memory that happened long ago. She was independent now, ready to live her life her way, "To my thinkin' mourning oughtn't tuh last no longer'n grief" (93). Janie was free, and she showed it.
Janie stayed in town wondering what she was going to do with her new found independence, she was quite content with staying in Eatonville (town she resided in) but none the less uncertain. Then Tea Cake arrived. He treated Janie with respect and dignity, not in the same way other town folk did, out of memory of Joe, but just because it was Janie. Tea Cake let Janie embrace womanhood in its entirety; she was not oppressed or subjugated but liberated and content. She left the town, Joe, Nanny, and all the memories in Eatonville; she left the busy ears and mouths and cracked doors, to embrace life. Her life with Tea Cake was a blur of joy cut short by the irony of tragedy. Her life thus far had been changed so much, her character always showed she was strong through out her life. She was like a flower blooming, the ignorance of childhood changing into the responsibility of womanhood, and accepting that nobody said it was easy, but nobody said it was going to be this hard. Henry Kissinger once said, "To have striven so hard, to have molded a public personality out of so amorphous an identity, to have sustained that superhuman effort only to end with every weakness disclosed and every error compounding the downfall" (chap. 25). After Tea Cake died Janie was done changing, done fitting and was ready for peace. The final realization was that Janie couldn't change some things and that you are what you are. "The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are" (Johnsoniana. Piozzi, 154.).