Opening the Heart
“We wander for distraction but we travel for fulfillment,” is a great description for what Janie Crawford is looking for on her journey in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (10). It is very clear from the text that Janie is searching for something to fill an empty gap she has due to her past experiences. Her problems could have rooted from her early childhood when she was abandoned by both parents. Her identity struggle can be traced from her bad luck with men. No matter what the cause for her inner conflict, Janie struggles to find fulfilment and has many identity issues. However through her journey, she finds clarity about who she is as a woman, person, and what she wants in life.
Growing up, young Janie struggled with her own identity and a clear understanding of what love was. There is no way Janie could know who she was if she did not know where she came from. At the beginning of the second chapter Janie said “Ah ain’t never seen mah papa…mah mama neither,” (21) as we find out later on in the book, Janie’s father is a white man who raped her poor mother leaving her to live with her grandmother, Nanny. This only added to Janie’s confusion about who she was in the long run. In fact, she had spent so much time around the white children that she did not know she was black. Also during Janie’s early years, she became curious about what love was. Nanny provided her with love and protection, but that is not the love she wanted. One day in her early teen years Janie thought she finally had found out what love was with Johnny Taylor, a young boy, but her grandmother told her love was about “stability and money, “and had nothing to do with caring about the other person.
On Janie’s journey, she gets her first experience with love when she is married away to Mr. Logan Killicks. Back in that time period being married and love were two different things and where confused with each other. In Freedom’s Story it illustrated that young women commonly were married to an older man based off his income (Williams 1). Killicks provided Janie with security. In this time period, Janie is considered lucky to be married to a man with a lot of land and money. Still Janie was unhappy this was not the love her grandmother told her she would feel after being married. Janie had expected to feel an attraction and passion for her husband, but with Killicks that was hard because he was an old ugly man. Janie reaches her breaking point after having a conversation with Nanny. She was told by Nanny that love was the thing holding back black women and that she needed to forget about love. Now “she knew now that marriage did not make love,” and she became dreadfully sad (38). Content with her relationship she began to feel hollow emotionally and physically.
Janie gains inner strength and a new set of morals from her second marriage. One day while her husband Killicks was gone on a shopping trip she met Joe Starks, a middle aged nice...