What characteristics do Janie's three husbands share?

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Building off of the previous educator's excellent response, particularly the first point, one could also argue that each man values Janie for her beauty and, due to internalized racism, also values her for her light skin and long, straight black hair. However, when she asserts her independence and spiritedness, each...

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Building off of the previous educator's excellent response, particularly the first point, one could also argue that each man values Janie for her beauty and, due to internalized racism, also values her for her light skin and long, straight black hair. However, when she asserts her independence and spiritedness, each man perceives these qualities as threatening.

Janie's first husband, Logan Killicks, strongly desires her, though she's underwhelmed by him. After nearly a year of marriage, Janie notices that Logan "[has] stopped talking in rhymes to her" and "ceased to wonder at her long black hair and finger it." Instead, he expects Janie to help him with work on his farm, and she balks at his request. The narrator suggests that Logan has grown accustomed to Janie's youth and beauty, which likely drew him to her, and now expects her to fulfill what he perceives as wifely duties. When she refuses, he mentions that his first wife never had any problem with his requests, thereby implying that Janie thinks herself superior.

What Logan doesn't understand about Janie is that at this moment in her life, she wants to be cherished, not ruled. When Joe Starks comes along, he enchants her; but she will learn over the course of their decades together that he, too, is someone who values Janie first for her looks. When she "[thrusts] herself into [conversations]" with Joe and his male friends, Joe tells her that she's "gettin' too moufy." In this instance, Janie's spiritedness is an affront.

With Tea Cake, it seems that he appreciates the bolder aspects of her character, as well as her maturity. However, Tea Cake becomes insecure when it seems as though Janie is befriending Mrs. Turner, who discourages Janie's relationship with Tea Cake because he's darker-skinned. In a bid to keep Janie close through intimidation, Tea Cake hits her. This act indicates that Tea Cake believes, on some level, that Janie will agree with Mrs. Turner that she is too good for him because she is lighter-skinned.

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Although each marriage is very different, I would argue that there are a few commonalities between the men.

  • Each man dominates Janie in some way. Logan sees her as another hand to help work the farm, and keeps her at home. Jody considers her almost like a trophy wife, and insists she wear her hair up. He also won't allow her to speak her mind. Tea Cake physically abuses her, and tells her it is so she'll know her place.
  • Each man is hard-working in their own way. Logan constantly works to keep his farm running. Jody builds up his business and becomes mayor of Eatonville. Tea-Cake works with Janie in the fields, and although he gambles and seems aloof, he does work to earn money for himself and Janie.
  • Each man helps Janie discover another aspect of herself. Logan awakens Janie to the reality of marriage, and his treatment encourages her to seek someone who will live up to her standards of love. Jody shows her that she has the strength to stand up for herself and claim her own life. Tea-Cake helps Janie discover what she really wants, & shows her that there can be happiness in life.
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