Blakeian Ideals Incorporated into Hurston
William Blake expresses his view of the world through his poetry involving the idea of innocence and experience. Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God incorporates a similar theme seen in Blake’s works. From a Blakeian perspective, an individual suffers on the path from innocence to experience.
This holds true in Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. An examination of Janie’s marital suffering reveals the nature in which she views the world discerningly. Each marriage: Killicks, Starks, and Tea Cake- all contribute to a suffering that is essential to Janie’s self-actualization. Janie’s first marriage to Killicks was the result of Nanny forcing her into the marriage for stability and survival, making Janie suffer because she did not want to marry a man she did not love. At the beginning of their marriage, Janie wonders to her self “did marriage compel love like sun the day,” and concludes that “yes, she would love Logan…Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so,”.
Not thinking for herself, she believes what Nanny and the others said about how love comes in time with marriage. This occurrence of believing everything said by the adults comes with being innocent because Janie is incapable of thinking for her self. But soon Janie begins to start complaining about different aspects of Killicks such as how she ” ‘ hates de way his head is so long one way…’ “. Janie is now merely looking at his physical aspects, like a child would, and is only analyzing how bad “de job” is. She is using her words to complain about only the surface of Killicks, which illustrates how she herself is being rather shallow at this point in her life.This hatred toward his body and suffering in this marriage finally leads to the conclusion that “marriage did not make love,”.
Finally realizing that Nanny and the others were wrong she leaves Killicks for her next man, Joe Starks, because “Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman,”. Her marriage with Killicks made her realize not only that love is not created by marriage, but also that she needs to follow her own life and not allow other people, like Nanny, to try and dominate her life. Now a “woman”, Janie has matured through the suffering she endured with Killicks. Janie’s second marriage involves her suffering by not being able to express herself because of her domineering husband, Joe Starks. Joe fears Janie speaking out because she is a trophy to him, an object that he wants to keep quiet and have control over. When the town asks Janie to give a speech, Joe cuts her off and says, ” ‘mah wife don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no speech–makin’,”.
This is the first time Janie experiences this phenomenon from Joe, not being able to express herself. He claims that she is inadequate to make a speech, because she is a “woman”. This develops his role in their relationship as authoritative, because he rules over her actions, and in reality the lack of those actions. Joe’s comment attempts to demean Janie’s knowledge as an individual in attempt to show he has control over her.Not letting her “have a chance to say anything one way or another..
. took the bloom off things”, which clearly made her realize that she does not like this new submissive role. Janie just wants the chance to be able to speak for herself. The phrase “Bloom off things” refers to the time Janie picks flowers at the beginning of her and Joe’s relationship when she is ecstatic to have met Joe. However Janie now feels trapped in this new role she has with Joe, which also resembles the role with Logan Killicks, her previous husband.
This suffering of being submissive to Joe continues and progresses throughout their relationship until Janie bursts out at Joe’s death bed, after again trying to be silenced; ” But Ah ain’t goin’ outa here and Ah ain’t gointuh hush,”. Here Janie’s voice is forceful towards Joe, because she realizes that it is essential to express the way she feels, and the only way to make Joe listen is for Janie to be assertive. Janie complains to him how her “mind had tuh be squeezed” by Joe so that she could be the object he needed, but now she is done suffering under his authority. This intense description creates animage of Janie’s mind being constricted by Joe’s forceful hands in attempt to silence her. The restriction Joe placed on Janie’s mind makes her feel furious towards him, which illustrates her desire to use her mind to express her ideas and wants. Once he finally dies she “let down her plentiful hair”, a symbol her freedom from Joe because he required her to tie her hair up.
Janie is not flaunting her new freedom but is actually expressing her self. This act of defiance to her dead husband illustrates Janie’s boldness. Finally now that she is free from the authoritative Starks “the young girl was gone, but a handsome woman had taken her place,”. This new self is no longer naive to the world. By again saying that a woman has taken place instead of a girl, Janie continues to show her development through her suffering with Starks.
She develops into a “woman” which has connotations of being wise and mature. This maturization could only have sprouted if Janie had gone through her marriage with her husband who tried to limit her voice, but instead he now helped her craft a whole new person. Falling in love, Janie and Tea Cake’s marriage is of true love, he is the first man to allow her to speak what is on her mind. However, Tea Cake dies and what is left with Janie is a clairvoyance that is communicated through her words. The suffering Janie endures through the loss of her husband amounts to her developing her self.
The death of Tea Cake caused Janie to weep and thank “him wordlessly for giving her the chance for loving service,”. At that moment Janie was beyond herself that she couldn’t speak at all, the death of Tea Cake was the ultimate suffering of all. “It was the meanest moment of eternity”. Even though this is one of the toughest moments for Janie, she is still thankful for everything she has experienced with Tea Cake. Through his death she realizes, ” Love is lak de sea… it takes its shape from de shore it meets, it’s different with every shore”. Her voice has matured greatly as she has progressed in her life, now Janie is seen as somewhat of a sage.
She is able to describe love as something that is unique to everyone.Janie says, ” you got tuh go there tuh know there,” which shows that she has endured so much throughout her life, especially in her marriage with Tea Cake which resulted in her killing him. The amount of experience Janie speaks with when reflecting back on her journey is tremendous, it is quite apparent that she has matured greatly from when she was the little girl married off to Killicks. Janie continues to show a great understanding when she states that people “got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves,”. Janie believes people have to do this because she herself has gone “tuh God” and she has found out about “livin’ fuh” herself, because of all the suffering she has endeavored through her three marriages.
It is important to note that this quote is the last dialogue in the book, so Hurston. This last chapter is meant to illustrate the growth Janie has gone through, this contrasts with her once naive self who thought love is made through marriage. Janie’s old words and new words contradict one another, thus the audience can see evidence of how she has learned from her suffering, and in essence demonstrating a rebirth that was derived from her maturation. The marital sufferings brought by each marriage have shaped Janie to become a much wiser individual. Although each one presented itself with different issues, through all of them Janie has learned to look at the world with a breadth of understanding and knowledge. This growth from her once naive self to the present could not have happened with out the Blakeian ideal.