Describe and analyze 1.) Janie’s relationship with Logan Killicks, and 2.) Janie’s relationship with Joe Starks. How do these relationships shape Janie's character in Their Eyes Were Watching God?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie marries three times, and her relationship with each husband contributes to her character development toward becoming an independent, confident woman. Logan and Joe are Janie's first two husbands, and both marriages are unsatisfying, but for different reasons.

Janie is basically "married off"...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie marries three times, and her relationship with each husband contributes to her character development toward becoming an independent, confident woman. Logan and Joe are Janie's first two husbands, and both marriages are unsatisfying, but for different reasons.

Janie is basically "married off" to Logan by her grandmother Nanny. Once Nanny realizes that Janie is becoming sexually mature, she decides she must find a stable, secure marriage for her. This need is a result of Nanny's earlier life as a slave and her daughter's (Janie's mother's) instability and eventual abandonment of Janie. Logan Killicks is an older man who owns some land and farms it. Janie is disappointed because this will not be a romantic relationship, but Nanny tries to tell her that love is less important than financial security. Once she and Logan marry, no romance blossoms, as Janie had hoped it might; instead, Logan treats her like a helpmate and only cares about her work on the farm. Janie has no real voice in this marriage, and nothing about it is fulfilling for her personally.

Given the state of her marriage to Logan, it is no surprise that when Joe Starks rolls through town and sweet-talks her, Janie is tempted to leave with him. Joe appears to be a romantic, and he tells Janie he will give her the life she deserves. Janie feels she has nothing to lose, as she is miserable in her marriage, so she leaves town with Joe, who is on the way to Eatonville, where he will be mayor. Though Janie is satisfied with their relationship briefly, once Joe has power, he treats Janie like an object or accessory. He doesn't allow her to interact with the community and makes her tie her hair up so other men won't look at her. His jealousy and insecurity result in Janie becoming resentful that she is completely losing her identity in the shadow of her husband. It is only after Joe's death that Janie begins to embrace who she is and who she wants to be.

Through both of these relationships, Janie learns that she will not be a secondary character in her own life. She grows more confident and is able to take what she wants in life, rather than being subjected to the whims of others.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie undergoes change and character growth as she moves through her two marriages.

First of all, her first marriage to Logan Killicks is one born out of Nanny's desire for Janie to have a secure life; it is not a relationship born from love. Logan owns sixty acres and has a farm. In Nanny's eyes, that is all Janie needs. At the beginning, Logan treats Janie with respect. Janie can function in the loveless marriage until Logan begins to belittle Janie and expects her to work like a hired hand bringing in wood: “If Ah kin haul de sood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside” (Hurston 26). The relationship continues to deteriorate until Janie is sick of being married to a man she considers old and unattractive.

When she meets Joe Sparks, she sees her chance for escape from a life of boredom and a chance for love. Joe has charm and status. He also treats her better than Logan; she is no longer a lowly farmer's wife. However, this relationship also begins to deteriorate when Joe treats her as a possession. Joe is the Mayor of Eatonville and expects Janie to follow his rules just as the people in the township. Their relationship is one where Joe holds all the power, and Janie is used to convey status to others. Even though Janie feels trapped with Joe, she stays with him until his death.

It is not until Janie meets Tea Cake that she finally finds true love. Janie has suffered through two marriages where she did not have a voice; that is, she was not her own person. In the last relationship she grows as an individual and as a woman.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One interpretation of Janie Crawford is that her growth as a character is closely related to her ability as a master storyteller. With Killicks, she has no voice; with Joe Starks, her voice is very limited, but with Tea Cake, Janie's own voice emerges and she joins with him as a master storyteller. This emergence of Janie as storyteller parallels her coming into being as a woman.

1. With Logan Killicks, an older man,Granny arranges marriage for Janie after having spotted Johnny Taylor "lacerating her Janie with a kiss." Wishing to protect Janie from those who would exploit her, Granny wants her granddaughter, "safe in life."

"You ain't got nobody but me. And mah head is ole and tilted towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo'self....Ah got tuh try and do for you befo' mah head is cold."

2. When Janie meets Joe Starks coming up the road, and he tells her of his ambitions; perceiving that Janie is dissatisfied with her life and wishing to be influenced, Starks leads Janie along with him. However, Joe is yet another dominating man who traps Janie in life. Once he owns his store, Joe has Janie "dress up and stand in the store all...evening" one night. "She must look on herself as the bell-cow, the other women were the gang."

Joe refuses to allow Janie a voice. When the townspeople ask her to speak after he is made mayor, Starks says,

...mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech makin'. Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home.

Further, because other men look at her with desire, Joe makes Janie cover her beautiful hair while she works in the store, which "kept her with a sick headache." Repressed, Janie again finds herself wishing for more in her life. somewhere to "laugh and play," not to be a possession on display.

Both her relationships with Logan Killicks and Joe Starks are confining. While they offer Janie financial protection, she desires independence. Janie never feels any sense of self in her marriages to these men; she is simply a wife to work or to be ornamentation, never to be a storyteller.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team