Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Character Role Analysis
Logan is one of the numerous characters that try to impose his materialistic values on Janie. Logan wants Janie to be happy in her marriage and satisfied with her life because she is the mistress of 60 acres of land. Logan isn’t a traditional antagonist because he’s not just a totally evil guy out to ruin Janie’s life; he actually cares for her. However, he does hold her back on her quest to find love and herself, and also threatens to kill Janie, so we’re making him an antagonist.
Joe Starks is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Though he seems chivalrous at first, upon marrying him, Janie discovers some disturbing flaws. Joe, having worked for white men all his life, has several very stubborn opinions of exactly what a high-born lady should do and, more importantly, not do. He seldom allows her to speak her mind, nor attend social gatherings, nor participate in the nightly community gossip sessions. He feels that such activities are too crass and low for her. However, he himself engages in them. This is called hypocrisy. Joe also is like Logan in that he attempts to press his materialistic values on Janie. As far as possessions and social position go, Joe provides for Janie lavishly, and expects that should be enough to make her happy. Overall, Joe restricts Janie for about twenty years of her life. It isn’t until after he dies that Janie really starts to live.
Nanny’s attempts to teach Janie and put her in the most advantageous position are misguided. From her position, the best future she can see for her granddaughter is for Janie to be the legitimate wife of a landowner. She sobs and pleads and rants enough to subdue Janie’s protests and force her to marry Logan Killicks. Though Nanny means only to give Janie what is valued in the old slave tradition – material wealth and social status – she ends up ruining much of Janie’s life and robs her of her innocence. Nanny is an antagonist not because she had bad intentions for Janie, but because she forced her own materialistic values on the girl and didn’t let her choose her own future.