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Quotes

Quote #1

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid. (2.14)

The pear blossoms and bee have an undeniably sexual overtone here, but it’s not sex for the sake of sex; this passage is about a display of loving intimacy. The leaf-buds are described as having a "snowy virginity" whose scent sensuously "caress[es]" Janie "in her sleep." To naïve little Janie, the penetration of the bee into the bloom is a "love embrace" whose "ecstatic shiver" creates a "creaming in every blossom and a frothing of delight." This sounds suspiciously like the overwhelming passion and ejaculation of sexual intercourse. And it leaves young Janie feeling "limp and languid," as a woman might after orgasming. This experience, ironically, both seems to take Janie’s virginity by introducing her so sensually to sex, and also preserve her innocence by building such a romantic ideal for her future lovers to live up to.

Quote #2

The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree but Janie didn’t know how to tell Nanny that. She merely hunched over and pouted at the floor. (2.39)

Janie’s ideal of love is set by her experience under the pear tree, an experience that was highly romanticized and glamorized in her sixteen-year-old eyes. Thus the idea of marrying an ugly old man for no other reason than to please Nanny is repugnant to Janie and "desecrates" her idealized vision of love.

Quote #3

[Janie]: Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so. Janie felt glad of the thought, for then it wouldn’t seem so destructive and mouldy. She wouldn’t be lonely anymore.

But anyhow Janie went on inside to wait for love to begin. The new moon had been up and down three times before she got worried in mind. (3.1-3)

Simply because Nanny tells her so, Janie assumes that marriage entails love. She assumes that after she marries Logan, she will magically wake up one day and love him. Some might read this as a defense mechanism, something to help her justify the obvious unfairness of being forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. However, when love does not come after three months, Janie begins to doubt.

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