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Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

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How long was Janie married to Logan in Their Eyes Were Watching God?

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While the timing is not precisely stated (because the novel describes seasons rather than months), clues throughout chapters 2–4 indicate that Janie's marriage to Logan Killicks lasted between one year and fifteen months.

Chapter 2 describes the days that precipitated this marriage. This chain of events begins on "a spring...

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afternoon in West Florida," when sixteen-year-old Janie experiences an emotional and sexual awakening watching the bees pollinate a pear tree; upon walking home, she notices her new attraction to a local boy named Johnny Taylor. Her grandmother, known by Janie simply as Nanny, sees Janie and Johnny kissing over a fence. Confronting Janie about the kiss, Nanny expresses an intense fear that Janie might be exploited and victimized by men in the same manner that her mother was. Nanny is concerned that she is too old to be able to protect Janie much longer and demands that Janie secure her safety now through marriage to Logan Killicks.

Chapter 3 outlines the beginning of the marriage between Logan and Janie. After the events of the spring day on which she is compelled to marry, Janie has only a "few days to live before she went to Logan Killicks." In a conversation that takes place "two month and two weeks" after the wedding, Janie seeks Nanny's advice on the one-sided nature of her marriage to a man whom she wants to love, but doesn't:

Ah wants to want him sometimes. Ah don't want him to do all de wantin'.

Janie is chastised for having expected her marriage to be a source of love (rather than simply security). A month after this disillusioning conversation, Nanny dies, at which point Janie and Logan have been married for three and a half months. Despite the passage of those months, the first season Janie must live through in the wake of Nanny's death is still springtime:

So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time.

This suggests that the marriage to Logan takes place early enough in the spring that the season is just finishing at the time of Nanny's death a few months later.

After going through the seasons of spring, summer, and fall, chapter 4 begins as Janie confronts the end of the calendar year and the changes she sees in Logan's attitude toward her:

Long before the year was up, Janie noticed that her husband had stopped talking in rhymes to her.

It's implied that the couple passes through the winter in a state of dissatisfaction with one another. The end of the marriage begins one day as she steps out of the barn, because "springtime reached her in there so she moved everything to a place in the yard." Working outside, Janie sees Joe Starks walking down the road. After flirting this day, and meeting up with one another during the following "week or two" that Joe stays in town, Janie leaves Logan for Joe. Since her marriage to Logan began in very early spring of the previous year, the length of their marriage depends upon when, precisely, the "springtime" days of her courtship with Joe took place, putting the total time of the marriage to Logan between a year (early spring to early spring) and fifteen months (early spring to late spring).

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Their Eyes Were Watching God recounts the story of Janie and her life's journey with three different men.  The first, Logan, is the man she married because her grandmother was afraid.  She was afraid Janie would end up unmarried and pregnant, like Janie's mother; and she was afraid Janie would not be properly taken care of if something happened to her--which, of course, it did.  Grandmother wanted her to marry someone decent, so she picked Logan Killicks.

This marriage to Logan was a loveless one, and the time it lasted was generally unhappy for Janie.  We don't have a lot of time clues, but we do know a couple of things.  Janie and her grandmother have their discussion about marrying Logan in the spring.  The next clue is

in the few days to live before she went to Logan Killicks,

so we presume it's still spring.  The next time reference is when Janie feels like she should have "felt" in love by now, since

the new moon had been up and down three times. 

This gets us to the end of summer, then, probably.  Then this line at the end of chapter 3:

So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time.  But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things.

This appears to be summer.  The only real unknown is the courting time with Joe, which couldn't have been very long.  By these clues, I'm guessing the marriage lasted a year and a season, probably fifteen or sixteen months. 

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