True feelings and experience are offered in Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston. The author admits that Janie Crawford has the life that is divided in accordance with the men, who enter her life. Though the central message of the story is all about the independence of the main character, it still seems to be doubtful whether Janie’s life could not be as colorful without all her husbands, different in nature and attitude to her.
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There are three men in Janie’s life: her first husband, Logan Killicks, offered by Nanny, her second husband, Joe Starks, who is cruel and confident, and her third husband, Tea Cake, whom she loves a lot and finds as the only true love in her life. The role of Tea Cake remains to be crucial in the story as well as in the whole life of Janie as his passion, creativity, and desire to create the best living conditions promote safety and comfort that is so necessary for the story. Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story that touches human lives.
Emotions while reading Zora Neale Hurston help to understand the role of Tea Cake. Unfortunately, those readers, who are not able to make use of their feelings while reading, they fail to comprehend the importance of Tea Cake in Janie’s life as well as his abilities to change the development of the events.
The story with several purposes is not only an exciting but educative piece of writing. Zora Neale Hurston does not want to focus on one particular item and its development under the conditions set by society.
The point is that the chosen story is full of captivating flaws, certain imperfections, and even some contradictions which create a kind of challenge that has to be overcome (“Analysis: Finding Shades of Meaning in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God”).
Some so many people want to find true love, happiness, or richness; and the main character of the story seeks to find herself, and the character of Tea Cake aims at helping Janie achieve the goal.
Main themes raised in the text vary considerably and involve the reader in the story. It is hard to understand what the author wants to say by introducing Tea Cake as one of the most influential characters in the novel. On the one hand, some signs of feminism and the desire to achieve independence by means of changing men.
On the other hand, the society in which Tea Cake and Janie have to live in is prejudice by certain racial conflicts. And, finally, a number of psychological aspects and the idea to use human weaknesses and turn them into personal strengths are disclosed in the novel.
The feminism of Janie is a powerful weapon to analyze. Tea Cake shows how respectful and careful a man can be regarding a woman. However, his desire to lead the family is not enough. According to McCredie, the image of Janie introduces a female voice of authority (25), and even such powerful characters like Tea Cake are not able to break the judgments and diminish the role of female dependency.
In addition to feministic ideas, racism is considered to be an integral part of human life. There are three communities which are available to Janie as she marries different people (Crabtree 56). These communities introduce different attitudes to the role of a woman in society as well as the backgrounds of the relations which have to be developed between a male and a female.
Finally, the reader gets a good chance to learn how some people’s weaknesses promote the development of other people strengths. For example, Janie’s weakness concerning inabilities to find herself make Tea Cake more powerful in his intentions to protect Janie and create appropriate living conditions for her. And Tea Cake’s weakness concerning the inability to control his power makes Janie more confident and prudent.
During the whole novel, Tea Cake may be accepted as a stimulator of Janie’s life. Though Janie understands the truth and realizes that certain age differences may become a problem in their lives, she is ready to take a risk and believe in safer future for herself, her love, and her convictions. “Ah’m older than Tea Cake, yes.
But he done showed me where it’s de thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people think de same they can make it all right” (Hurston 115). Tea Cake’s desire to destroy any possible barriers on his way to happiness with Janie turns out to be so powerful that it helps Janie understand that there is nothing bad or wrong in their relations in case they are built on genuine feelings, understanding, and respect.
Personal experience of the author plays an essential role in the story as well. Zora Neale Hurston sees the cruelty inherent to the lives of many black women and the impact of men’s activities in society. She does not want to follow the requirements set by society. What she wants is to create an image of a woman that can break the rules and choose her independent way to success and satisfaction. And the role of Tea Cake is not the last in this way.
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His presence makes Janie more confident in her desire to gain independence, and his support makes her believe that her ideas make sense and may come true soon. However, at the same time, Tea Cake does not want to leave Janie and chooses a form of control that is not always clear to the reader.
Main traits of Tea Cake impress the reader with its diversity. This character may become cruel and tentative, fair and absent-minded, loving and independent, serious and playful. Tea Cake’s creativity is the key to Janie’s development. Janie finds him creative as he as no one else supports the desire to be developed and probe the world around.
Playful behavior of Tea Cake makes him noticeable. For a long time, Janie’s life has been controlled by cruel men whose main goals were to have obedient wives, own business, and be able to manage the relations which are developed in families.
However, Tea Cake’s play with Janie is regarded as a new perspective, a new idea that has not been used before, and Janie is captivated with the offered methods. She is ready to accept the play by Tea Cake and try to change her life for the better. Respect turns out to be another powerful aspect of human relations. In comparison to the previous husbands of Janie, Tea Cake is attractive to the reader due to his respect for women. He does not want to create certain boundaries which allow men to take control of their women.
At the very beginning of their relations, Janie accepts Tea Cake as an integral part of her life and the feeling as they have already known each other a lot (Hurston 99). There are many such cases when the characters are not ready for everything that happens to them. Still, they have to accept reality as it is.
Unpredictable accidents define the quality of a human sense of self in the story. The unforeseen departure of Janie’s mother, sudden kiss noticed by Nanny, meeting with Joe Starks, or song gifted by Tea Cake as the beginning of the most important relations – Janie could not predict all this. Still, these very events influence her perception of life and her role in the world. The role of Tea Cake is vital yet not indispensable.
During the whole life, Janie gets evidence with the help of which she understands her financial independence. Of course, Tea Cake helps Janie understand that she can be free and happy with a man. Still, he should not be the only man in her life. This is why several critics admit that Tea Cake becomes an important figure in the novel. However, he is not too much important in Janie’s life.
Janie feels better with Tea Cake. However, it is evident that she is fine without him. She has already achieved a lot in her life: she gained certain financial independence, she knows how it is difficult for a black woman to gain recognition in the society full of prejudice and misunderstandings. Though Janie finds Tea Cake a reliable person with some positive traits, she cannot trust him entirely as she is afraid to become dependent on his words, ideas, and actions.
Tea Cake supports the idea to comprehend how one may see things that connect two characters (Wolff 31). This character is attractive due to his desire to create the conditions under which different people may feel comfortable. He does not focus on the methods used to achieve his goals as he tries to help people discover the most powerful sides of their characters and use them for good.
Tea Cake’s ability to create the world he and Janie are dreaming about remains to be an essential point in the novel. When Janie was a young girl, she had to perform the roles defined by her grandmother, first, and second husbands. She had nothing to do but accept the duties set. And with Tea Cake, Janie gets a chance to create the world and define the responsibilities on her own. This is why one of the main purposes of Tea Cake is to give opportunities which are so necessary for such people like Janie.
Though some critics admit that Tea Cake differs a lot from the previous husbands of Janie (Crabtree 60), still, Tea Cake and other husbands of the main characters have several things in common. First, Tea Cake wants to gain a specific portion of control over Janie. Second, this character continues putting his demands in the first place. And finally, he tries to help Janie as he still believes that his help is integral for her and no one else could provide the required assistance.
Beating Janie is defined as a possibility to establish a kind of claim on his wife (McCredie 28). This gesture may signify several things. On the one hand, Tea Cake still possesses some traits which inherent to males. On the other hand, male power is probably the only possibility to prove that men are not to gain control over all things in their lives.
The desire to protect the wife does not always have the required limitations and turns out to be a weakness of a man. It is hard for men to make quick decisions and consider their possibilities regarding women. This is why such characters like Tea Cake may be rather impulsive, and it is not always possible to control emotions under different conditions. Another significant point concerning the role of Tea Cake in the story is his direct influence on other characters.
Tea Cake’s love makes Janie lose herself again (“Analysis: Finding Shades of Meaning in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God”). The more time Janie spends with Tea Cake, the more confident she becomes about her dependency on this man. She is in love, and this love makes her weaker and even blind.
She does not want to see the evidence that she recently gained a sense of self is disappearing; this is why some urgent actions have to be taken. The unimportance of Tea Cake as a character is proved as soon as Janie shoots her husband because of self-defensive reasons.
The death of Tea Cake is another important step in Janie’s life that has to make her more powerful (Crabtree 57). This action is motivated by a rather selfish feeling – the desire to save her life as she “saw the ferocious look in his eyes and went mad with fear” (Hurston 184). She forgets her functions of a devoted wife, and what she remembers is that she is a human being, and Tea Cake is another challenge that has to be overcome.
Tea Cake and Janie are the two characters which show how dependent human life can be. There are many reasons why this novel of an African American writer has to be read and understood. First, this is a story about human life, its challenges, and peculiarities. Reading this work, it is possible to realize why there are so many people, who remain to be dependent on personal weaknesses and uncertainties. Another reason is about the properly chosen characters and the definition of the roles in the story.
The character of Tea Cake and his role in Janie’s life become rather important. He proves that in spite of human desire to become independent and create life in accordance to personal demands and ideas, people remain to be dependent on the events and circumstances around. Though it is not an easy thing, it is hard to avoid it.
“Analysis: Finding Shades of Meaning in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’.” Talk of the Nation. 17 Feb. 2000. Web.
Crabtree, Claire. “The Confluence of Folklore, Feminism and Black Self-Determination in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’.” Contemporary Literary Criticism 17.2 (1985): 54-66.
Hurston, Zora, Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1998.
McCredie, Wendy, J. “Authority and Authorization in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Black American Literature Forum 16.1 (1982): 25-28.
Wolff, Maria, Tai. “Listening and Living: Reading and Experience in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Black American Literature Forum 16.1 (1982): 29-33.