Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: Marriage in Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

Seminar Paper, 2006

11 Pages, Grade: 2,3




1. Introduction

2. Three marriages: An Analysis
2.1 The First Marriage: Janie and Logan
2.2 The Second Marriage: Janie and Joe
2.3 The Third Marriage: Janie and Tea Cake

3. Comparison with Regard to Gender Roles in Marriage of that Time

4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston, marriage is a central topic. The main character of the book, Janie, is married three times. Her husbands are very different from one another which is also reflected in the relationship between her and her husbands in each marriage. Nevertheless, all three marriages show certain similarities which correspond to common gender roles of this time. The following essay thus will explore and analyze these marriages. Afterwards it will compare them with regard to three common gender roles of that time, and it will show that all three marriages are more or less built upon these common gender-specific ideas.

2. Three Marriages: An Analysis

2.1 The First Marriage: Janie and Logan

The reason for Janie’s first marriage with the wealthy middle-aged Logan Killicks is Nanny’s want for financial and personal security for her granddaughter. But since Janie’s experience under the pear tree, she expects marriage to be like what she has experienced there. “’Ah wants things sweet wid ma marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think.’” (24) But soon after the wedding she recognizes that marriage does not make love (cf. 25).

At the beginning of their relationship Logan treats his new wife very well. He does not use physical violence against Janie and he tries to make her life as pleasant as possible. “’No’m, he ain’t even talked ‘bout hittin’me. He says he never mean to lay weight uh his hand on me in malice. He chops all de wood he think A wants and den he totes it inside de kitchen for me. Keeps both water buckets full.’” (23) But nevertheless, Janie is unhappy in their marriage from the very beginning. One reason for this is that Logan completely lacks sexual attraction for her and she even is disgusted when she thinks of having sex with him. “’Ah’d ruther be shot wid tacks than tuh turn over in de bed and stir up de air whilst he is in dere.’” (24) This can also be seen as a reason for Janie’s failure to fall in love with him (cf. Lester 1999: 82).

After a while Logan’s behavior towards Janie changes. He no longer talks in rhymes to her and he also ceases to wonder at her long hair (cf. 26), which is a clear sign that he is not fascinated by her anymore.

Logan is totally ignorant of Janie’s feelings. When she tries to talk with him about them he simply replies: “’Ah’m getting’ sleepy Janie. Let’s don’t talk no mo’.’” (30) He does not recognize that Janie is serious about leaving him and that she wants him to show his feelings for her. Instead, he tries to hurt her like she hurt him, by pretending not to be worried about her leaving him (cf.30).

Logan also decides for Janie (cf. 27). When he wants her to help him outside, she simply answers that her place is the kitchen. Logan’s reply shows his attitude towards her as his property and his behavior is similar to the one of a slave master (cf. Lester 1999: 4). “’You ain’t no particular place. It’s wherever Ah need yuh.’” (31) After she refuses to help him he wants to show his power over her, and he even goes so far as to threaten her with death “’Ah’ll take holt uh dat ax and come in dere and kill you! You better dry up in dere! Ah’m too honest and hard-workin’ for anybody in you family, dat’s de reason you don’t want me’. The last sentence was half a sob and half a cry.” (31) This reaction also shows that he knows about the feelings of his wife towards him. “Accused of ‘her mama, her grandma and her feelings,’ and finding herself neither capable nor inclined to ‘rectify’ any of these, Janie decides that ‘a change was bound to do her god’” (qtd. in Boesenberg 1999: 49) and seeks new hope in going away with Joe.

2.2 The Second Marriage: Janie and Joe

Janie gets to know Joe during her marriage with Logan. Right from the beginning he treats her like a lady. This is one reason why Janie is so attracted to him. The other one is that he speaks “for far horizon” (29) although she knows at once that he does not “represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees” (29), which is why she hesitates for a long time, before eventually going away with him.

During their first conversation Joe lovingly calls her “girl-chile” (28) and declares that she is not made for work (cf. 29). But he also promises her a ‘voice’ when he announces that his aim is not to make a dog out of her (cf. 29). This conversation is really important because it shows right from the beginning that their relationship has an intellectual basis, but it is also obvious that it is not emotional at all. “On the train the next day, Joe didn’t make many speeches with rhymes to her, but he bought her the best things the butcher had” (34, emphasis in the original).

At first their marriage is not only intellectual but physical as well. It is sexually satisfying for both of them until Jody desires to mold her into “de Mayors wife” and silences her. But over the time their sexual relationship becomes nonexistent (cf. Lester 1999: 82) and the marriage is only perfunctory anymore (cf. Howard: 1980: 101). “The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor. […] The bed was no longer a daisy-field for her and Joe to play in. It was a place where she went and laid down when she was sleepy and tired.” (71)

Soon it becomes clear that Janie’s duty is to represent Joe (cf. 41) and that she does not have the ‘voice’ Joe has promised her during their first conversation (cf. 29). Exactly the opposite is the case: Joe “seeks to publicly silence Janie.” (Lester 1999: 5)


Excerpt out of 11 pages


Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: Marriage in Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'
University of Tubingen
PS II Literatur
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
493 KB
Hurston, Their, Eyes, Were, Watching, Marriage, Zora, Neale, Hurston, Their, Eyes, Were, Watching, Literatur
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2006, Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: Marriage in Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 5/3/2014

    Very well done.

Read the ebook
Title: Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: Marriage in Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free