Was Janie truly happy at the end of the novel as she killed Tea Cake?

Authors Avatar

Sarah McGowran

Was Janie truly happy at the end of the novel as she killed Tea Cake?

The novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” did not fit into the typical Canon genre of novels nor did the author of the novel Zora Neale Hurston fit the idealistic author genre of the time. Hurston was a black female writer, recognised for her controversial dress, her wit, and unpredictable behaviour especially regarding her age. Most of all Hurston was known for her great confidence to go out into the world and make a name for herself through her novels in a time when “De nigger women is de mule uh de world as fur as Ah can see.” One of the many ideas debated upon buy critics is the innovative ending to this overall revolutionary novel, what type of statement Hurston is making; did Tea Cake need to die to complete Janie’s happiness to become truly independent. Some critics believe Hurston is flying the flag of feminism creating a negative slur against black male society and the patriarchal world as a whole. Conversely other critics see Hurston’s novel as giving a womenists perspective into 1960’s American Deep South society.  These critics believe Their Eyes Were Watching God to be a step in the “right” direction of equality for both sexes in the 60’s and in society today.  

As readers and adolescents or remembering our adolescent years we are able to relate to Janie, we too devise ideas on the perfect relationship as did Janie. From her relationships with her first two husbands; Logan Killicks and Joe Starks Janie saw that only by equality within a relationship can you have true love. For this reason many critics believed Janie was happier at the end of the novel without Tea Cake. Tea Cake had hit Janie to show she was his girl and no other man could look at her. This quite apparently shows vast inequality within their relationship so how could Janie have been in true love or have true happiness. Contrastingly although Tea Cake did hit Janie, Janie was her own person she may have different values to the public in Eatonville and the readers of this particular novel. Other critics and Janie herself may interpret the hitting incident as Tea Cake’s jealousy of other men looking at Janie him wanting to put a stop on this and this being one of the values Janie accepted as Tea Cakes wife which other women would not accept. These ideals were moulded by the values Janie’s grandmother had “Ah wanted ya to pick form a higher bush and a sweeter berry, You wants to make me suck de same sorrow yo’ mama did, eh?” Also by the values of her own experiences with her two marriages not wanting to be used for her female muscle by Logan “Ah aim to run two ploughs, and dis man Ah’m talkin’ ‘bout is got uh mule all gentled up so even a women kin handle ‘im.” Or for her female attractiveness with Starks “Building a high chair for her to sit in and over look the world and she here pouting over it!” Janie’s ideals often related back to her era of pre laps Arian where she had no other influences but her own “ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage!”

Critics still believe Janie was never truly happy with tea Cake which is why Huston had him killed off. Partly due to Tea Cakes gambling “Quote”  Here it would seem as if he’s only using Janie for her money which again relates back to her other two marriages where she was used for her body muscle and her looks. Janie was unhappy in both of her two original marriages with inequality why would she be happy in the last one.

Points against being truly happy at the end of the novel

  • He made Janie work on the fields this shows him to be as male chauvinistic as her first husband Logan.
  • He also gambled all her money away without telling her.

Points for being truly happy at the end of the novel

Janie finally finds the bud on the tree she really enjoys to look at the one on the branch that stood for equality, satisfaction and most of all love in what Janie considered being a real relationship. “Oh to be a pear tree any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world.”

  • Working on the field was more about being treated as and equal and allowing the two to spend time together, this is shown by tea cake bringing back the seed for Janie to plant herself which she does after his death

At an elderly age which we are still unaware of, Hurston died, in a welfare home buried in a bright pink dressing gown, still wearing her fuzzy slippers. There are grave parallels to Hurston’s life and the life of Janie’s. We are lead to believe that Janie is truly happy at the end of the novel through killing tea cake and becoming truly independent although if Janie’s life has true parallels to Hurston’s it doesn’t pose such a happy horizon for Janie dieing alone and not particularly rich reliving the joys of her youth

Janie lived a life of extremities for the era of her life for these reasons I do believe she had to kill Tea Cake to become totally independent but I disagree with the ideal that Janie was truly happy at this point  

Join now!

Possibilities to include:

Hurston had various slurs printed from critics against her; many from black male authors of that period.

 “Hurston, as a feminist, did not want Janie to find fulfilment in a man, but rather in her new found self.”(Crabtree 317)  

Personally I see the critics ideals of Zora Neale Hurston’s master piece of a novel to be extremely ethnocentric and even a personal idea very ethnogenderic specially when particular expressions are generated from male authors  those expressing such an ignorant ideal on her ending.

I agree with this quote in conclusion: “Janie decides she ...

This is a preview of the whole essay