Finding Hope in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God recognizes that there are problems to the human condition, such as the need to possess, the fear of the unknown and resulting stagnation. But Hurston does not leave us with the hopelessness of Fitzgerald or Hemingway, rather, she extends a recognition and understanding of humanity's need to escape emptiness. "Dem meatskins is got tuh rattle tuh make out they's alive (183)" Her solution is simple: "Yuh got tuh go there tuh know there." Janie, like characters in earlier novels, sets out on a quest to make sense of her inner questionings--a void she knew she possessed from the moment she sat under the pear tree. "She found an answer seeking her, but where?...where were the shining bees for her (11)?" Though tragedy invades her life, it does not cripple her, but strengthens her. Alone at novel's end, having loved and lost, Janie sits in her home, banished of the "feeling of absence and nothingness (183)." Her road to discover led to herself, and she gains a better understanding of the world she lives in and how small a thing happiness is comprised of: "If you kin see de light at daybreak, you don't keer if you die at dusk. It's so many people never seen de light at all. (151)" Instead of Hurston portraying racial unwholeness, she portrays the African American as being racially healthy. She was discarded by the black writing movement of the 30's and 40's for picturing the African-American as whole instead of downtrodden, oppressed people. Hurston was no militant, out to prove no theory. Capturing the essence of Black womanhood was more important to her than social criticism.
Comparison of Hurston's life and work is ironic. Though Janie, having passed through dominance and loss, had a 2 story home and money in the bank to come home to, Hurston had none. Hurston's later life was that of the economically disadvantaged-- what Ellison, Wright, and other male black authors penned their novels in protest of. Brilliant, talented, she could not rise above the economic limits imposed on her and thus a talented anthropologist with two Guggenheims ended up buried in an unmarked grave.
It's not chance that the three main characters besides Janie are men. Hurston was writing in a society where men were still dominant in the literary field. The struggle Janie emerged from to find her inner self needed men as a catalyst. The male/female relationship cannot be duplicated with a female/female one. Logan Killick's ownership of her being could not have happened with a woman counterpart. After marrying Killicks for protection rather than love, Janie realizes that she is living Nanny's dreams rather than her own. She also realizes that with protection comes obligation--Killicks feels he deserves to slap her around. With that discovery, she makes the choice to escape with Jody and his ambitious ideas. Joe seems closer to her ideal, closer to the dream of marriage that she...