Support the statement that none of the characters want to hurt Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

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copelmat's profile pic

copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In order to support such a statement, we would need to examine the motives of the various characters who do hurt Janie: her grandmother, Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake. In all four of these cases, no one wants to explicitly hurt Janie but the pain is caused because these individual are unwilling or unable to acknowledge Janie's own identity and "voice" as an authority over her own life.

Janie's grandmother is concerned only with Janie's safety and security. As she tells Janie, "it's not love Ah wants yuh to have, it's protection." As a former slave, Janie's grandmother wants her to enjoy the freedoms that she never had for herself. Unfortunately, Granny never stops to consider that Janie might have even loftier goals for herself.

Like Granny, Logan Killicks isn't interested in seeing Janie become a self-actualized individual; he wants someone to help him with the responsibilities of the farm. He isn't interested in Janie as a person, only as a farm hand.

Joe Starks shows some interest in Janie as a person but only because she is a reflection upon him. The better her social standing in the town of Eatonville, the better he looks himself. Ultimately, however, Joe Starks sees Janie as another of his possessions and another of his accomplishments. In his mind, she is nothing without him.

And finally, Tea Cake--when stricken with rabies--is unable to recognize Janie as the woman whom he fell in love with. The pain and intimidation he causes, however, is not done so willingly on his part; it is the effects of the disease on his brain causing his behavior.

In all of these cases, these individuals believe they are acting in Janie's own best interests. They do not mean to hurt Janie but each is convinced in one way or another that his or her actions is more important than what Janie wants for herself. The message of the novel, then, is the lesson Janie teachers us in standing up for our own dreams and not shying away from making our own voices heard.

teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Most of the characters in Their Eyes Were Watching God look out for Janie's best interest even though their methods may not always provide her with the best opportunities.  For example, early in the novel, Janie's grandmother decides that it will be best if Janie marries Logan Killicks because he would be able to provide her with a stable life.  Janie's grandmother knows that she will not be able to take care of Janie for much longer and thinks that she is doing her granddaughter a favor.  However, she does not give Janie a say in the marriage and pretty much forces it on her.  So, even with good intentions, this marriage was not the best for Janie.  Janie's third husband, Tea Cake, is very good to her and only gets dangerous when he becomes rapid after a dog bite--he does not mean to hurt Janie, and the disease has taken over him. 

This statement might be hard to argue for Joe Starks because he is clearly violent towards Janie and tries to control everything that she does.  One could try to argue that he does it for his own purposes without the intention of hurting Janie, but this is a stretch.

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