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‘TheirEyes Were Watching God’ is a novel written by Zora Neale Hurston.The main character is Janie Crawford. Janie has been living inSouthern Florida with the hope of finding her true love. In theprocess, she gets married to three men Logan Kellicks the firsthusband, Vergile Woods (Tea Cake) and Joe Starks. These three suitorshave totally parallel characters, and they affected Janie`s lifedifferently. This paper compares and contrasts the two suitors JoeStarks and Vergile Woods who married Janie.
Janie`sfirst marriage with Logan Kellicks failed, and she soon met JoeStarks. Joe can be described as more ambitious and hardworking thanLogan. Janie soon fell in love with this man because of thesecharacters and get married to him. Joe was a good speaker andlikeable. His way of interacting with people and talking to othersimpressed Janie so much, especially during the initial stages oftheir relationship. According to Janie, Joe was the perfect man tobring her happiness, joy and sense of relaxation in life. For quitesome time, Joe watched as Janie becomes wealthy(Daram 85).During this period, Janie became uneasy when she realized that Joewas so much controlling in the sense that he could not allow heraccomplish anything by herself. Joe wanted her to live and behaves ashe wanted. Nevertheless, this greatly affected their marriage sinceJanie felt that she was denied an opportunity to express herself.This was contrary to her earlier desire of trying to find a voice inher relationship.
Thereafter,Janie meets her next suitor Vergile Woods, nicknamed as Tea Cake.Vergile seems to be very kind-hearted, and his treatment of Janie isvery impressive. Janie believes that this is the perfect man she hasbeen yearning for all her life. Tea Cake is fun-loving and carefree,and Janie tends to adore him because of his willingness and energy inmaking her equal(Daram 87).
Thecontrast between Joe Starks and Tea Cake can also be perceivedthrough the meaning of their names. For instance, Joe’s outlook onlife was stark. He refused to compromise his standards irrespectiveof the suffering he exposed others to, especially because of hisassumptions. He completely denied Janie all pleasures and we see thelove in his relationship bleak away. On the other hand, Tea Cake, asthe name implies has more positive associations. Janie had theimpression that Tea Cake was as sweet as his name, and sure he was(Bloom 33).
Whencompared to Joe, Tea Cake appears quite different, especially when heteaches Janie how to play checkers. This meant that he considered heras intelligent to learn a concept that was mostly dominated by men.Such a character makes him stand out when compared to Joe Starks, whothinks that women are beautiful and should be pampered. Essentially,a woman can be compared to a beautiful object that is a property tothe husband. While Tea Cake has a strong feeling of obligation andduty towards his wife, Joe never considers a woman to have feelings,and that a man has the right to hurt a woman whenever he feels thatthey are misbehaving(Bloom 34).
Theperspective of Tea Cake on women is more egalitarian. He desires thatJanie play against him checkers and believes that women can succeedthe same way as men. He seems to value the company and personality ofJanie, and as such, he yearns to be near her all the time. This iscontrary to Joe, who is more concerned on the obligations of a womanto her husband. This is well illustrated during her initialrelationship with Joe,Janie notes that he was a jerk, though she tried to ignore this inher determination to find love (Bernard 63). Thereafter, she learntthat Joe was constrictive, prideful and only wanted her because ofher physical appearance. He completely denied Janie the opportunityof expressing her opinions, especially when she listed off all herfeelings towards Joe and expressed how he had always made her feelall those years. However, in the end, he falls trap of money, andthis gets out of hand.
Onthe other hand, though Tea Cake was 12 years younger when compared toJanie, he demonstrated a high-level maturity in his love-affair withJanie. He considered Janie as equal. He could talk and carefullylisten to what Janie had, unlike Joe, who though he shared withJanie, he never listened to her. Having a person, particularly a man,which expresses the willingness to listen to her made Janie ecstatic.Together, Janie and Tea Cake worked in Everglade field, and theirlove grew a hundred fold. Despite the freak event when Tea Cakecontracted rabies while protecting Janie, and Janie was compelled toshot him so as to protect herself, Tea Cake appears as the bestsuitor for Janie. His kindness and care to Janie was genuine(Bernard64). All he wanted was to see her well, see her around him, enjoy hercompany and truly express his love for her, not because she wasbeautiful, not because of what she could provide, but because hetruly loved her.
Bernard,Patrick S. "The Cognitive Construction of the Self in Hurston`sTheir Eyes Were Watching God." CLCWeb:Comparative Literature and Culture9.2 (2007): n. pag. Web.
Bloom,Harold. ZoraNeale Hurston`s Their Eyes Were Watching God.New York: Bloom`s Literary Criticism, 2008. Print.
Daram,Mahmood. "Invisibility of the I`s in “Their Eyes Were WatchingGod"" InternationalJournal of English and Literature3.4 (2012): n. pag. Web.