Motif of Love in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston is an outstanding work that features multiple social and cultural aspects. However, the motif of love also deserves particular attention. It is represented in the relationship and world view of the main character, Janie.
Janie loves nature and sees it as beautiful and fulfilling. The ultimate goal of love that she seeks is one that has a sense of enlightening and oneness with the world around her. She considers this to be ideal because she wants to experience the harmony and beauty that generally . This can be seen from the following words: “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!” (Bloom, 8) Therefore, Janie relates love to the symbiotic relationship between the bee and the flower.
According to Janie, the bee is eager to get pollen from the flower and the flower is ready to receive the bee. From this scenario, she believes that love should be mutual and reciprocal. Each partner should be able to achieve his or her heart’s desire from the other. I think her expectations come from the void created by the absence of her parents . Her expectations are valid though very naïve because love has its vicissitudes and it is not as perfect as she would want it to be.
Janie’s grandmother decides to marry her off to an older man who she believes will give her security and stability considering he has a 60-acre land. Although, Janie’s theory of an ideal love comes from the pear tree but according to her “The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the tree. . . “(Alva et al, 28). Though, after the first divorce she learns that marriage has nothing to do with her conception of love.
Joe Starks is Janie’s second husband and Janie becomes more of a possession to him; he does not treat her as an equal. For instance, when Janie was to make a speech and Joe interrupted and said: “Mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’ . . . She’s uh woman and her place is in de home” (Bloom, 50). This marriage made her feel cold and lonely. She had no power to even challenge her husband, therefore he started to abuse her emotionally and physically.
Janie’s third husband, Tea Cake, is a young man twelve years younger that she. He brings excitement to her life and takes away the loneliness brought about by Joe. With Tea Cake she can finally be herself as he loves her unconditionally. He tells Janie that no one else in the world compares to her . Therefore, Janie learns life lessons from all her previous relationships. She concluded that, People must to go to God as well as learn to believe in themselves. She finally finds the peace that she had been looking for.
To sum up, the motif of love is seen throughout the book as it is attributed to the main stages of Janie’s life. Brought up by her grandmother, Janie has a distinct view of how the marriage and love should look like. Although only her third marriage gives her the desired harmony and peace she has been dreaming of.
Bloom, Harold. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Infobase Publishing, 2008.
Alva, Rodrigo, and Maria Aparecida Andrade Salgueiro. Zora Neale Hurston and Their Eyes Were Watching God: The Construction of an African-American Female Identity and the Translation Turn in Brazilian Portuguese. Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010.