The “Their Eyes Were Watching God” Novel By Hurston


Their Eyes Were Watching God novel explores various personal relationships between the characters as a mirror of the society they live in, how the masses relate, the stereotyped relationships between men and women, and what is socially expected of every gender as per the societal norms. Through Janie’s relationships with Leafy and Nanny, Hurston brings out women characters who are oppressed because of their race and the struggles they go through on a day-to-day basis. Janie’s husbands on the other hand are portrayed to be controlling, emotionally empty, chauvinistic, hardworking, and protective. In the book, several characters fight to live with their circumstances and flourish as unique people within their communities and within the natural environment. Janie tries to find her own voice and independence in order to find personal fulfillment. Jody on the other hand craves total control (either by acting as mayor of Eatonville or by making Janie wear a headscarf out of irrational jealousy). Tea Cake wants a carefree attitude toward life that is bordering on the pathological. Hurston in her book provides a reflection of the larger social relationships through the personal relationships of various characters.

Nanny’s Relationship with Janie

Janie and Nanny have a mother-daughter bond as well as a father-daughter one. Considering Janie’s parents were not present in her life, Nanny stepped up to the plate and had to perform the roles of mother and father to Janie. She tells her, “You ain’t got no papa, you might jus’ as well say no mama, for de good job she do yuh,” she said. You ain’t got nobody but me” (Hurston 15). When Nanny saw Janie kissing Johnny Taylor, she reacted as a father would at the time, hitting Janie. Nanny’s maternal instincts took over, and she seated Janie on her lap and spoke to her as a mother would. Nanny, like any other father at the time, picked a decent guy for her granddaughter. Through this relationship, Hurston clearly portrays what a parent-child relationship is like in the society of Janie’s upbringing. Society expects respect from girls and the only time a lady is seen next to a man is when she is married to him.

Men have traditionally been regarded to be more superior than women in society. This is depicted in Zora Neale Hurston’s classic Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie, the primary character, lives in a patriarchal society that is also motivated by prejudice. In the middle of terrible relationships, she fights to resist patriarchy. She marries three different men, each of whom exemplifies the impacts of patriarchy on society. This novel depicts how repressed women are in comparison to males, with instances drawn from Janie’s many relationships.

Jane’s Relationship with Joe Starks

Janie’s second spouse is Joe Starks, whom she met during her unfulfilling first marriage to Logan Killicks. Janie is drawn to Joe because he can provide her with what she seeks, such as adventure, wealth, and prosperity, he is interested in her because he regards her as having class. She is a physically gorgeous young woman, considerably superior to any female Joe has met. He regards her as a property, a prize he can exhibit with his other assets, which include his town, his house, his business, and his status as mayor. Jody regards Janie as a kind of ornament that enhances his social standing and helps to justify his efforts to exert control over everyone, men and women alike.

Tea Cake’s Relationship with Janie

Even though Janie’s connection with Tea Cake seems to be the most emotionally satisfying, it is not a relationship between recognized equals. This marriage, like Janie’s other unions, is predicated on the conventional roles of the domineering man and the submissive female. Tea Cake sets the rules for their lifestyle, and Janie obeys him despite putting up with hardship, hard labor, and the odd thrashing. This is portrayed when Tea Cake beats Janie to demonstrate his dominance over her just as their society requires of a man.

The connection between them and Janie’s prior marriages is basically far more comparable to that relationship than it is to the idealized, according to a close reading of the book. Hurston employs the dialect that Tea Cake and Janie speak to portray the culture of the novel’s black community. Her obedient submission to Tea Cake’s every desire is intended to give him total power and make him feel like a man which the society he lives in requires of him. He makes the couple’s underlying adherence to conventional gender norms clear, instead of defining himself by his political influence, he uses his physical dominance which is seen when he saves Janie from a vicious dog.

Logan’s Relationship with Janie

Janie’s relationship with Logan Killicks defines her, he expects her to be obedient, silent, and proper. Nanny and Logan are both far more focused on their own ideas of success than they are on Janie’s requirements. Success in the material world is Nanny’s main indicator of a successful marriage. Nanny’s priorities are evident when she tells Janie, “If you don’t want him [Logan] you sho oughta. Heah you is wid de onliest organ in town, amongst colored folks, in yo’ parlor. Got a house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big road” (Hurston 47). In the view of Nanny and the neighborhood, Logan embodies success which is a major requirement for a man to have status and gain respect in society. Killicks is a suitable spouse not because Janie is in love with him but rather because he is well-to-do, financially stable, and has started to amass fairly technologically advanced belongings. He has the ability to both safeguard Janie and give her the prestige that Nanny was unable to acquire. The social structure from which Nanny operates does not accommodate Janie’s teenage infatuation with poetry and gorgeous words.


Janie begins her journey toward independence by leaving Logan. It’s crucial to note, though, that Janie’s decision was mostly influenced by Joe’s invitation to flee with him. Janie’s rebellion shows a transfer of dependency from one guy to another rather than developing confidence in her independence and gaining the social prestige that comes with marrying a wealthy man. Hurston is able to use Janie as a vehicle to depict the feminine roles that were imposed by society at the period. She stresses the constraints and rigidity of the societal ideals of the period that Janie transcends, making her an eyesore in her society. The writer depicts the evolution of the black person and community via Janie’s marriages to three very different men. As the reader observes the rebirth of the main character, the United States sees the rebirth of the African American who likewise experiences new locales, new occupations, new identities, and new achievements to gain a new feeling of self-respect and value.

Works Cited

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. ePub edition. Harpercollins Publishers Inc., 2004.