Analysis of Relationships in Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

Words: 2168
Pages: 9

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie’s journey towards spiritual enlightenment and her development of individuality, largely through Janie’s relationships with others. Hurston uses the themes of power, control, abuse, and respect, in Janie’s relationships with Nanny, Killicks, Starks, and Tea Cake, to effectively illustrate how relationships impact identity and self-growth.

It is Janie’s relationship with Nanny that first suppresses her self-growth. Janie has an immense level of respect towards Nanny, who has raised Janie since her mother ran off. The respect Janie has for her grandmother is deeper than the respect demanded by tradition, from a child toward his caretaker, probably because
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In other words, Joe Starks is all that Killicks is not. He a rich, “citified” man with ambitious plans for the future (while Killicks is content with working on his farm his whole life), and like Nanny believes that Janie’s role as a woman is in fanning herself on the front porch, versus slaving behind a plow (29).

However, the narcissistic Joe Starks ends up being the epitome of abuse and power. The moment he and Janie arrive in Eatonville, he begins walking around the town in his fine clothes and sophisticated words, emulating his white boss from Georgia in order to impress the townspeople (47). Everything Jody does, he does in consideration of how it will improve his status among the townspeople. Because he walks and talks with so much power, the townspeople quickly come to respect Starks, but of course the townspeople’s respect only further empowers him (50).

Starks also begins to exert an extreme amount of control over Janie and refuses to acknowledge her individuality. At the ceremonial lighting of the lamppost, Joe refuses Janie the chance to make a speech in front of the townspeople, and the narrator lets us in on Janie’s first feelings of disinclination within her relationship with Jody (42). He sees Janie as a vital accessory to his grandiose image, and cares only that this image is upheld. “I am the mayor, and you are the mayor’s wife” (60), Jody drills into