The Odyssey or any other epic tales, Their Eyes Were Watching God has adifferent perspective of what a hero is. In this novel, Hurston writes a storyabout an African-American woman named Janie Crawford whose quest is to find heridentity and desire as a human being to be loved and appreciated for who she is.
Her quest to fulfill those desires is not easy since she has to overcome so manyobstacles and challenges in her life. A superiority that her Nanny posses overher to determine Janies own life when she was a teenager and being abeautiful accessory to the glory of Joe Starks are some of the experiencethat she encounters.
She also has to make some sacrifices. And yet, just likeany other heroes, at the end, she returns to her home with a victory on herhands. Janie who continually finds her being defined by other people rather thanby herself never feels loved, either by her parents or by anybody else. Hermother abandoned her shortly after giving birth to her.
All she had was hergrandmother, Nanny, who protected and looked after her when she was a child. Butthat was it. She was even unaware that she is black until, at age six, she saw aphotograph of herself. Her Nanny who was enslaved most of her lifetime only toldher that a woman can only be happy when she marries someone who can providewealth, property, and security to his wife. Nanny knew nothing about love sinceshe never experienced it. She regarded that matter as unnecessary for her aswell as for Janie. And for that reason, when Janie was about to enter herwomanhood in searching for that love, Nanny forced her to marry Mr. LoganKillicks, a much older man that can offer Janie the protection and security,plus a sixty-acre potato farm. Although Janie in her heart never approves whather Nanny forced her to do, she did it anyway. She convinced herself that by thetime she became Mrs. Killick, she would get that love, which turned out to bewrong. Nannys biggest mistake is that she never consults with Janie aboutwhat she wants in life. Janies second husband, Joe Starks, is a repeat ofJanies unhappiness in marriage. At first, Janie looked at Joe as a man whowould offer her an escape from her loveless marriage with Mr. Killick. She saw apromise of her a new lifestyle, adventurous and fun. But Joe, as with Nanny, wasso obsessed with materialism and status. His success in re-building Eatonvilleto become a prosperous town made him the mayor of that town. People acknowledgehis effort to get the power and wealth he has earned. They envied him because hewas not only wealthy and powerful, but also he has a beautiful wife, Janie. Aswith the women of the town, they envied Janie because of having a great andsuccessful husband. However, Janie was not happy. Joes success was not hersuccess. He took all the credits for himself and never shared them with Janie.
He even treated her as if she were of his trophies that he had captured, and putalongside his other possessions and displayed them to the common folk. Inaddition to that, he often insulted and humiliated her in front of everybody.
Because of these Janie finally stood up for herself after she could no longercarry the humiliation Joe had done to her. She defied her husband, who wouldthen die with a broken spirit. With the death of Joe Starks, Janie who is a veryattractive and wealthy widow starts her new life with a new kind of freedom. Shesoon entered into the most rewarding relationship of her life with Tea Cake whoonly can offer her his guitar, his songs, and jobs in the muck of theEverglades. But that was enough for Janie to find a greater happiness toiling asa bean-picker and living in a migrant workers camp than she had in herprestigious house in Eatonville. Unlike Joe, Tea Cakes self confidence is notcombined with ambition; and unlike Joe, he can openly express his love forJanie. He accepts Janie for who she was unconditionally and always encouragedher to live for herself and helped her to find her self-respect and her truevoice. In addition, Tea Cake was able to give Janie her dream of love that Joenever understood. Except God, nothing else is eternal. And for Janie that meansher two years of happiness with Tea Cake is a sacrifice. A hurricane hits thetown of the Everglades-and the world of Janie, Tea Cake, and those of themigrants were destroyed. In the struggle for life, Tea Cake still saved Janieand the dog that Janie wanted him to save. Unfortunately, by doing that he hadto give his own life. The dog bit when he tried to save it and it infected himwith a serious illness later on. A doctor came and tried to save his life. Yet,it was too late. As hopeless as he was and in the fury of his illness, Tea Cakestruggled with Janie as he threatened her with the six-shooter. She defendedherself with the riffle. His pistol and her rifle fired simultaneously. Tea Cakefell forward and buried his teeth in Janies forearm, as she caught him. Lifeis a journey. Some people complete it and return home, others do not even takethe first step. Women live in a dream, they tend to forget what they dontwant to remember and remember what they do not want to forget. Janie alwaysdreamed to love, be loved and appreciated for who she was. Having been marriedfor two years with Tea Cake fulfilled those dreams. With that, she returned toEatonville.
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