Their Eyes Were Watching God Part 4: Janie
Instead of being shoved into a cookie cutter mold, Janie breaks free and builds a gingerbread house of self-discovery and individuality. Great. Now we’re hungry. Guess we’ll satisfy our hunger with this video.
|Literature||Their Eyes Were Watching God|
how Janie is first presented to us
and how she evolves,
because, boy, she changes
through this and the pears and honey bees
that she kind of relates to in the beginning of the story
- seem awfully innocent by the end. - Yeah.
It's a classic coming of age story,
and so we're gonna have that path from
innocence to maturity, or innocence to loss of innocence.
And, at the beginning, Janie's just really curious
about the world.
She says that she started her life
when she left Nanny, so when she left her grandma's.
So we can kind of think of that as
the jumping-off point. And she was young.
She was a teenager when she got married.
And that's when she started her journey to self-discovery.
Unfortunately, that was not an easy journey.
She meets several men who really wanna suppress
that individuality and suppress that desire to discover herself.
So she has Logan, who really just wants to
turn her into a mule, like into a work horse.
And Joe, who puts her on a pedestal,
and doesn't -- He wants her to be seen and not heard.
Joe becomes the mayor. She's the mayor's wife,
and he's kind of like, "Oh, no, she can't give any speeches."
It's very clear that he kind of idolizes her,
- but in a... - As a decoration.
Exactly. Exactly right.
And the names of these characters
show us this. It's Logan Killick
and Joe Stark. It's very clear what's happening here
is that these men are really suppressing the individuality of the woman.
Eventually, Janie really just begins
to detach herself from what's going on.
And she has what she kind of considers this inner self,
and the outer self.
And the inner self is the one that's on this journey
to self-discovery and trying to be strong.
The outer self is totally stoic.
And so she starts pretending that nothing's happening.
So to the outside world,
people seem to think, "Oh, she's putting up with this?
She's doing this?" But on the inside, she's like
really kind of riled up and trying to get through it.
She does make a lot of active decisions.
She leaves her first husband for her second.
And she gives Joe, her second husband, a piece of her mind.
So she's very active in what she does
in some instances,
but, for the most part, she really just starts to detach herself
and is very flat on the outside.
So my sense of the character is
that it's -- I don't know who's being indicted here,
meaning is it the lack of choice of good men
who actually respect her brain? They're just not out there?
Or they are out there and they're not attracted to her
and so she feels bad about that?
Or is desperate?
Or is it kind of the plight that she's in
being a Black woman at this time?
She just didn't have a whole lot of choices to start with
and having a brain was a hinderance?
If you were happy being a mule
or happy being a decoration, well, life was great.
But she wasn't that. She didn't fit that normal mold.
So is there a message here? What's your read?
That is an awesome question, because that is exactly what Hurston wants us to ask.
What Hurston is trying to do is show us
a bunch of different people who do not fit a mold.
So Janie is one type of person
who has this inner and outer self
that she can't -- She's strong on the outside, not on the inside,
kind of strong on the inside.
And that people don't have to fit a perfect mold.
And that not all men are bad. Not all men are good.
Not all women are bad or good.
Whites, Blacks. And she's trying to show us that.
That's kind of part of what got her in trouble
in the Harlem Renaissance
is that a lot of these male Black authors said,
"We should be glorifying Black culture." And here she's kind of showing that
Black men are kind of jerks sometimes.
And Janie makes mistakes and kind of
no one is perfect and no one is a pure villain.
And she's really trying to show shades of grey.
So asking, "Who is it that's being indicted here?"
That's a great question, because it's almost everyone and no one at the same time.
[ pen writing ]
What comprises Janie's inner character and outer character?
Who are Janie's husbands? What are they all about?
What is Hurston trying to tell us
about how people fit into stereotypes?
Let's see. It's a weird phrasing.