Their Eyes Were Watching God
By Zora Neale Hurston

The novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston tells the inspiring story of Janie Crawford. Janie is an African-American woman raised in rural west Florida by her ex-slave grandmother. Throughout the novel, Zora Hurston transforms the reader into a participant in Janie’s life. She brings the harsh realities and joys that Janie experiences to life by telling the stories of Janie’s three marriages, and then the ultimate realization that she discovers at the end of the novel.
I feel that Janie matures into a complete being through her three marriages. Her first marriage to Logan Killicks demonstrates her immaturity as a sixteen year old when she marries because everyone else believes that the time and partner are right. Her second marriage results from Jody Starks’s insistence and from the hope that her second marriage will lead to the love that she desires. The third marriage develops because Janie knows in her heart that she loves Tea Cake, and that she wants to be his wife. Through each marriage I believe that Janie learns valuable lessons, moves on to progressively better relationship, and then ultimately realizes that a person has to live their own life to feel truly fulfilled.
Janie’s first marriage is to the desecrating vision of the pear tree, Logan Killicks (13). Logan is a landowner, respected by most in Janie’s small town. Nanny arranges the marriage so that Janie has the stability in life that Nanny never possessed. Yet, I think that Janie, being given stability at the young age of sixteen, feels stifled. She learns that “marriage did not make love.” (24) For Janie to be a “proper wife," she would have to learn that Logan will treat her like a mule in the fields, and that he would “never mention nothin’ pretty (23).” I feel that as Janie realizes that her relationship with Logan will never bring her ship into the port. After deciding not to accept crushed dreams, Janie shows that she will continue a quest for true love by escaping with Joe Starks and his ideals of prosperity.
Janie’s second marriage to Joe Starks is one based upon materialism and status. From the start of the relationship, I think Janie knows Joe is not concerned with her emotional happiness as much he is with his ability to show his love for her through material items. This need to show this is first seen on the train when “Joe didn’t make many speeches with rhymes to her, but he bought her the best things the butcher had. (32).” Joe is concerned greatly with his status in town as a mayor. The best thing that Joe feels that he can give to Janie is the privilege of allowing her to be called, “Mrs. Mayor” (43). However, Janie needs someone who will treat her as an equal, allow her to speak with people in the community, and treat her as a human being.
After being widowed by Joe Starks, Janie meets the man who would exemplify what she was dreaming about as she sat under the pear tree. Tea Cake has neither the financial stability nor the high social status that Janie’s first two husbands possessed, yet the gifts that he gives to Janie are worth so much more. He possesses an open mind that allows Janie to escape from people’s expectations for her. I think that Tea Cake is an essential part of Janie’s mission to find herself. He allows her to decide what she truly wants out of life and helps her to break through the limitations of stability and security that Nanny had originally imposed. As Janie removes suppression of her ability to express herself, she allows herself to have fun with Tea Cake in their relationship. However, Tea Cake is only a temporary existence in Janie’s life. Although Tea Cake\'s death is upsetting for Janie, she comes out of it a stronger woman.
Although Janie ends the novel with no man in her life, through her experiences with her three husbands, she develops enough strength to be secure. She discovers that she does not need a man to help bring her ship in with the tide. She has gained enough strength to