Finding one's self is never easy for an individual. It is easy to say, live life how you want, but if you haven't figured out what you want, you may feel like you’re lost. But, discovering your personal truth can help you be the person you want to be no matter what life throws at you. “Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh do fuh theyselves.” In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, the protagonist named Janie Crawford faces a series of hardships that help her find herself and ultimately realize that her dreams were much different than those imposed upon her. As she loses men and her very way of life, she also gains the freedom that ultimately shifts her into a much more mature woman. Janie’s hardships force her to realize what is important in life and discover her own dreams. There comes a time in every person's life when they have to be on their own in order to know where they belong.
Throughout the book, Janie attempts to find satisfaction through love but she realizes that it never pleases her. Janie is married three times throughout the book, and each marriage teaches her something new about herself. In her first relationship with Logan Killicks, a man she is arranged to marry, she learns that love is not something one learns to do. Without mutual love, there was no loyalty in a relationship. 'She knew now marriage did not make love. Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman' (24). Since Janie was arranged to marry Logan Killicks, she thought that she could force herself to learn to love him after they married. Though deep down Janie hated it, “Cause you told me Ah mus gointer love him, and, and Ah don’t. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it.” (Pg. 23) She didn't know how to love because she was shaped by her grandmother, Nanny’s, concept of love and that was confusing for Janie. Nanny's concept of love was different because she lived through slavery. She thought Janie required a man for support and married her off. Janie, however, needed to discover love herself.
Janie learns that the failure of her first marriage was vital for growing into a mature woman later on. It encourages her to grow because it gave her the maturity to grasp the rigid realities of love. Logan Killicks acted as a stepping stone, helping her discover that she was missing love. Janie’s search for happiness continues after her first marriage into her second marriage to Jody Starks. This marriage proves to be a toxic relationship that holds her back from being a woman. Jody didn't allow Janie to express her mind nor participate in anything that he felt wasn't meant for women. She recognizes this, “She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her.
Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and flood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over” (Pg. 68). Jody was not what Janie thought he was, and she had just cajoled herself to believe that he was the man she wanted because he was something better than Logan. This becomes the moment of self-realization for Janie as she realizes that her dreams were still not met through Jody. Janie felt like she was living through the dreams of Jody and her peers because she was doing what she knew others wanted her to do. One day, Jody hits Janie, making her realize that she was misleading herself. Janie realizes that for a marriage to work, there needs to be equality. If you continuously let others run over and control you, you will never find the sense of you. She thought she was in love with him right away but she was only in love with an idealised version of Jody, she was just “in love with love.” When Jody ultimately passes away, Janie is given a new chance.
After the loss of authority in her first two marriages, Janie learns to appreciate the freedom to take control of her own life and make her own decisions. “She liked being lonesome for a change. This freedom feeling was fine. These men didn’t represent a thing she wanted to know about. She had already experienced them through Logan and Joe. She felt like slapping some of them for sitting around grinning at her like a pack of cheesy cats, trying to make out they looked like love” (86). Janie is able to find happiness not because of marriage, but because she had the freedom to choose what she pleased without being in fear. Her last marriage to a man named Tea Cake sets the final stage of progression for Janie’s womanhood. From Tea Cake, Janie learns to love and finally discovers what it feels like to be loved.
“The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall” (Pg. 193). Tea Cake treats Janie equally and encourages her to speak her own mind more. He also empowers her to socialize with the community. In this final marriage, she doesn't rush, ensuring that he was the right one for her. Although Janie emerges as a woman after her first dream was shattered, she completes her growth as a person when she finally learns how to love. Janie learns that even through the traumatic experiences with love, you can still find true love. Love is not the same for everyone who experiences it. Instead, it is always moving and changing, and only shaped by the men it encounters. Janie's pursuit for individualism exists as she moves on from each of her marriages. As time progresses, she encounters hardships but in the end she finds her true identity. Through each marriage to Logan, Joe and Tea Cake, she concludes that she should live for herself. In the end of the story, she is content because she is where she finally wants to be.
You must first find happiness within yourself to be able to find it with others. You cannot find happiness through others first, because you’ll be living through a lie, inside, you’ll never feel yourself. Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God attains the new freedoms of being able to make her own choices and deciding who to be in a relationship with. She is able to do this because of the growth she went through during her three marriages. In the end, Janie is alone, but she understands she can be happy without being in a relationship. She unshackles herself from her demanding and abusive relationships with Logan and Jody, who effected her own life journey and now she is able to learn from them, and that is what allows her to possess a considerably stronger sense of herself. This is why, “ You've got to find yourself first. Everything else will follow.” Charles De
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