Their Eyes Were Watching God This paper will tell the reader about all aspects of the numerous problems that are presented in Hurstons Their Eyes Were Watching God. It will deal with all of the numerous problems that were experienced in the rough time that the book was written in. Also, it will deal with how these problems are still involved in todays society. While many of the problems will never go away, some have already, and some will go away in hopefully the near future. There were many problems and issues that Zora Neale Hurston brought up in this novel, and she did this mostly through the recollection of the main character, Janie Crawford.
While this story deals mainly with Janies life from age sixteen to approximately the age of forty, the novel also deals with the problems that society faced even before Janies birth. The major problem issue that is involved before Janies birth is the fact that the town schoolteacher raped her mother, Leafy Crawford. When this novel was set, approximately twenty years after the Civil War, rape was still an important issue in their society. While rape was probably more common back in those days, less was done about it, and it was basically just accepted. (Baker 134) This is especially true if it is a white man with a black woman.
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If it would be a black man with a white woman, a lot more problems would arise. This is a type of double standard, because it is not just to allow a horrible action for a certain set of people and disallow it for another group of people based solely on the color of their skin. The schoolteacher, a white man, who raped Janies mother, a black woman, created another type of problem that went far beyond the obvious. As a result of the rape by a white man, Janie had a coffee and cream complexion, and this was considered a skin tone of great beauty (www.novelguides.com). This became a problem with the other girls all through Janies life, because of the issue of jealousy.
Even though Janie thought herself as nothing better than any other black girls, all of the girls feel Janie was just that much better than everyone else. Everyone else, except Janie, created a superior image of the character Janie. Janie didnt even realize she wasnt white like her childhood friends until she was six years old and saw a picture of herself. The major problem created by Janies light facade was the fact that all of her friends seemed out to get her. They seemed overly jealous of her, and no matter what she did, or how hard she worked for it, they feel she achieved what she did solely because of her beautiful looks. (Jones 36) Hurston does a good job at portraying this feeling in the following quote by the people of Eatonville on Janie:”It was hard to love a woman that always made you feel so wishful” (111).
Another chief problem faced by the people of the time was the idea of trying to survive the low quality of work available at the time. People worked as migrant workers, very similar to those in Jon Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath. People would work tedious jobs for very little pay. People had to survive. Blacks especially had to do whatever they could to survive. Since this wasnt long after the ending of slavery, the overall population of blacks in the United States still wasnt very educated.
They had to do whatever they could do for money, whenever they could get it. This wasnt so obvious in Janies family ways, and after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, it is apparent that the times seemed to be getting a little better as the story progressed. Janie experiences life through many different views throughout the novel, and all seem to have slightly different problems. First, she experiences life as a rich, light skinned girl who was always the envy of every other girl in town. Later, she experiences life as the wife of a potato farmer, then as the wife of the mayor, and finally as the wife of a migrant worker. While many people feel envious of Janies money and power that she possessed through her marriage with Logan Killicks the potato farmer, and Joe Starks the Mayor of Eatonville, people seemed to be more envious than ever when she found what she was always looking for, in true love, though it was with the poorer migrant worker Tea Cake.
This was said of Tea Cake in the novel: “Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place” (122). The major problems faced it the story Their Eyes Were Watching God involve the problems that deal with love. These problems include, but arent limited to envy, lust, spouse abuse, and many others. Spouse abuse was very common at the time this story was written.
Similar to the before mentioned problem of rape, little was done about spouse abuse in those days. Women were quite often treated like objects, more than they were as human beings. This is evident when Joe Starks uses Janie as a status symbol more than as a wife. She does all of the work behind the scenes, and he takes all the credit. The mules in the story are symbolic of love, and people in a way.
How the owners treated the mules seems to be the way that they treated Janie. (Toile 319) One of the final, but very important problems faced in Their Eyes Were Watching God is the problem of racism. Racism is one of the biggest problems that are involved in this story. People are discriminated against continuously because of the color of their skin. Migrant workers remain migrant workers because of the fact that they are black. Furthermore, women are senselessly raped, because they are black.
The blacks are growing into a race of subhumans and they arent but a tad inferior to those whitees (sic). This was a quote talking about the rise of black equality in todays society. It is footnoted in that text those subhumans referred to the time when black men and women were consistently degraded. (Toile 77-78) Finally, and probably most importantly of all, religion is the biggest problem presented with this story. (Jones 153) The following quote shows the point in the novel where Hurston took the title of her book:”They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His.
They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God” (151). This was spoken when a huge hurricane was e …