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Each of Janie's three relationships helps her to grow into the self-actualized woman whom we meet as she walks back into the town of Eatonville in Chapter 1 and endures the questions and gossip thrown at her by the porchtalkers.
From Logan, Janie learns that love and marriage cannot just be arranged and suddenly happen as her grandmother believes and that, alternately, one must work and devote a great deal of attention to make a happy marriage.
With Joe, Janie has her first opportunity to apply the lessons she has learned from Logan. Unfortunately, Joe is far more interested in his own "big voice" to ever take the time to listen to Janie's wishes and aspirations. From this, Janie learns that in order to build a happy marriage, both individuals must stand on equal footing and be willing to sacrifice for the other.
It is with Tea Cake that Janie finally realizes her "love dream." In this relationship, Janie and Tea Cake treat each other as equals, they listen to one another and treat one another as equal partners. It is through this relationship that Janie becomes self-actualized and--although this last relationship ends tragically--is able to fully live her own life.
Janie’s relationships are the best and easiest ways to understand her strength as a person, but also as a black woman. During the time frame of the book, the woman was not considered an equal to her husband, and yet Janie did not follow that line. Even when married, she pushed her husband to be the mayor, own the general story, and be a success. The story of her past shows that his successes were due in large way to Janie. Even after his death, Janie followed her own agenda when she met up with Tea Cake. She followed him and his adventures rather than pushing him for success. However her strength pulls through when she has to shot Tea Cake to save herself. When returning to her home after Tea Cake’s death, she holds her head up high and knows that she is in charge of her own destiny, and not many people male or female, white or black could say the same.
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