THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD
A very traditional and particular aspect of “Their Eyes were Watching God”, by Zora Neale Hurston, is the Gender roles and gender politics. The issues of rights, treatments and abuses of all genders is considered an important theme. This was the gender politics that caused the first two failed marriages of the protagonist, Janie. We see Janie losing parts of herself in each of her relationships due to the dominated male forces. “The gender politics made Janie struggle throughout her life, breaking the stereotypes of that time, to become a strong woman by giving up her two marriages that she could not tolerate, and to find a true love after all.”
The protagonist of the novel, “Their Eyes were Watching God” is a black woman with mixed background of white ancestry. This novel is written in flashback, where Janie narrates her life story to a friend of her, Phoeby. The setting for the most part of the novel is Eatonville, Florida, which was the first black town in America.
As this novel depicts the story that takes place in early 1900’s, there were two main issues in America. The first was the racism (against blacks) and the gender issues. The African Americans had to face much difficulties. Meanwhile women were also badly oppressed.
Janie’s life is a struggle. Her grandmother was a slave and her mother was also raped, who got pregnant with Janie as a result. This shows that no serious steps had been taken for their safety and well-being. Janie, who was brought up by her grandmother, married for the first time with a man named Logan Killicks due to insisting of her grandmother. Logan treated her as if she were a child. He wanted her to be quiet, obedient and proper. He wanted to rule over her. Janie’s regret over Logan is expressed as:
“Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think. Ah…” (3.26-28) CITATION Shm08 l 1033 (Shmoop Editorial Team. “Logan Killicks in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” shmoop). Janie felt utterly bored, used and unloved. Maybe their perspectives of love were different.
Logan made Janie do as he wanted. As Logan was a man, an old man, he used to threaten Janie whenever she disobeyed her. But Janie was not ready to tolerate this all at any cost. Breaking the stereotypes of the society at that time, she decided that she would never stay a wife who is beaten by her husband, who would not even complain or do anything to save herself. Her self-respect did not allow her to stay with that psychopath. So she left Logan’s home forever. She did not care about what would people say when they would come to know about the fact that she had left her husband, and people without knowing what her husband used to do (as people always considered women inferior and considering men always right). She gets out of the traditional mold of a woman who does as she is told or speaks when she is spoken to. She opens her mind to Joe in chapter 6 saying:
“Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks to and talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was…and how surprised y’all is goin’ tuh be if you ever find out you don’t know half as much ’bout us as you think you do. It’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty when you aint’ got nothin’ tuh strain against but women and chickens” CITATION Zor37 l 1033 (Hurston)These lines are proof that Janie wants to convey that god talks to both men and women, too.