Their Eyes Were Watching God is Hurston’s best-known work, a novel that centers around Janie, a poor black girl raised in Florida by her grandmother, who is always searching for something more. Her struggle with who she wants to be versus who others expect her to be is a central conflict throughout the novel. In addition to Janie’s journey to self-realization, the novel examines other important themes, including defining gender roles, the difference between love and marriage, silence, and the tension created by a social hierarchy within the African American community itself.
Their Eyes Were Watching God characters analysis Janie - Zora Neale hurston books
16 years old; long beautiful hair; young and a dreamer
Early 20s; works in Eatonville General Store; keeps her hair tied up in a head-rag; dresses in fancy clothes; miserable
Late 30s; wears overalls; hangs on Tea Cake's every word; works beside him in the bean fields
Late 30s; depressed and devastated
Early 40s; still beautiful; wears overalls; quiet; proud
After sitting under a pear tree, Janie decides that she wants to find a love that is effortless and beautiful; her soul is searching for it. She allows a young boy named Johnny Taylor to kiss her. Nanny sees.
After Janie is married off to Logan and learns that marriage does not equal love, she runs off with Joe Starks. Joe intends to keep Janie as a trophy wife and is very jealous of other men looking at her. He isolates her and forces her to hide her hair.
After Joe's death, Janie finds true love with Tea Cake. He makes her happy, and she feels like she is finally in a true, effortless partnership.
Janie had to kill Tea Cake because rabies took over his mind. He flew into a jealous rage and tried to shoot Janie. Luckily, she had rigged his gun in case he tried to shoot her; she kills him with a rifle and is put on trial. She is acquitted.
Janie returns to Eatonville to the stares and envious gossip of the town women. She realizes that she finally found the love she had always wanted, and her soul feels at peace. She doesn't acknowledge the other women's gossip because she is now beyond all of that.