Pushed, Chosen, And Choosing

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston,

was a novel about one woman’s self-revelation. It began

when she was a very young girl, first being pushed, then

chosen, and finally choosing. Born a victim of circumstance,

Janie was subject to her position in life. She was raised to

uphold the standards of the early African American

generation. From the beginning, she was taught to be passive

and subject to whatever life gave her. As she grew older she

began to realize she must give in to her desires and not

suppress them. Janie, the main character of the story, was

set up for her journey of self-discovery by her grandmother.

Nanny set a goal for Janie’s life by saying, “Ah wanted you

to look upon yo’ self. Ah don’t want yo’ feathers always

crumpled by folks throwin’ up things in yo’ face.” Janie’s

grandmother pushed Janie into a marriage, which she

considered a ‘safe’ place for Janie. Though hesitant, Janie

agreed to marry Logan Killicks. He was a farmer who

married Janie shortly after she completed school. Killicks

was the first antagonist that Janie encountered in the story.

He was there for one purpose, to destroy Janie’s new sense

of self-awarenes. Logan demanded things of Janie that she

did not wish to do and tried to push her into his mold of a

perfect wife. Janie did not love Logan nor did he love her.

She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew that she

didn’t want Logan Killicks. Joe Starks appeared in Janie’s

yard one afternoon. He said the sweet things that Janie

wanted to hear. Though Janie hardly knew the man, she was

chosen by his words—being young and gullible. She took

another step in her journey, leaving Logan the next day and

traveling to Eatonville with Joe Starks. Aspiring to be the

mayor of Eatonville, Joe Starks was a man concerned with

little except power. He wanted it, and he was going to use

Janie to get it. She wore nice dresses during this marriage

because Joe wanted her to stand out from the rest of the

town; he used her as an icon of his prosperity and power.

He was cruel to Janie and stomped out all of her free will.

He built his town of Eatonville, became the mayor crushing

all in his path, and made many enemies along the way,

including Janie. During the period that she was married to

Joe Starks, Janie was not allowed to talk and act as herself,

but she began to think for herself—never revealing to Joe

how she felt until just before he died. Playing with the hand

she dealt herself, she did what he told her, and refrained

from leaving Joe Starks physically until after his death;

though, her heart left him long before. Shortly after Joe’s

death, not mourning any long than grief, Janie became the

figurehead of her personal ship. Over time, she learned that,

all along, she had this growing feeling inside her that

something was missing—possibly her lack of

self-confidence. She chose a new path, seeking her dreams

and her identity. Previously the mayor’s wife, Janie

encountered many suitors after Joe’s death. She believed

they were in it for her wealth and was very skeptical of the

men that confronted her. Tea Cake offered Janie a new

direction and didn’t seem to care about her material wealth.

He showed her a good time. Not only did she desire a

marriage, but a friendship also—and she found this with Tea

Cake. They were married, and he took her to live in the

Everglades. She began to wear blue and the things Tea

Cake liked to see her in. She spoke her mind and acted on

her instincts, never holding her feelings back. However, she

became what she set out to be after her marriage with Tea

Cake. Janie returned to Eatonville after Tea Cake left her in

a coffin, and the book ends where it began, as Janie finishes

her dialogue with her friend Pheoby. She walked back into

town, with her head high upon her shoulders. She was truly

her own person—proud and sure of herself and her place.

Though confronted with compelling desires for others to

maker her a “proper woman,” Janie became independent

and free willed by the end of the novel. She overcame the

standards of the early African American generation—to have

no opinions or inner-initiative.