In Their Eyes Were Watching God, what does the role of the hurricane do to Janie's development as a character? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Disastrous times do much to test the mettle of people, and the hurricane certainly challenges Janie's survival instincts, her will, and her love for Tea Cake. Because of the hurricane, Janie develops from wanting an ideal to accepting a reality.

Having ignored the indications of the need to leave the area as the native Seminoles depart for the hills while the days were yet sunny, Tea Cake and some of the other workers take their clues from the owners who have yet to depart. So, by the time the hurricane comes and Lake Okechobee flows upon them, Janie and Tea Cake and the others frantically attempt to flee. When Tea Cake apologizes to her for staying, Janie lovingly consoles him,

"People don't die till dey time come nohow, don't keer where you at. Ah'm wid mah husband in uh storm, that's all."

As the storm rages and they struggle to escape death, Tea Cake and Janie unselfishly do what they can for each other, which leads to Janie's character development. When Tea Cake becomes exhausted from having to swim to the bridge and hold Janie up as well, she does her best to support him as they walk to Six Mile Bend. But, there is no place for them on the bridge, so they must continue on; when Tea Cake can walk no farther,

Janie spread herself between him and the wind and he closed his eyes and let the tiredness seep out of his limbs.

As they continue on, Janie feels herself being swept away by the raging waters of the lake that has come out of its boundaries. She cries out and Tea Cake shouts for her to grab the tail of a swimming cow. However, there is a vicious dog on the cow's back from whom Tea Cake must save her. He manages to kill it with his knife, but not before it bites him in his cheek.

Finally, in a scene demonstrating Janie's development, they reach a spot where they can rest. Tea Cake remarks,

"...reckon you never 'spected tuh come tuh dis when you took up wid me, didja?"

and Janie replies to him,

"Once upon uh time, Ah never 'spected nothin', Tea Cake, but bein' dead from the standin' still and tryin' and laugh. But you come 'long and made somethin' outa me. So Ah'm thankful fuh anything we come through together."

Whereas in Chapter 3 Janie has complained to Nanny that "Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think," Janie now sits figuratively under a pear tree as she has attained that love for which she has longed with Logan and Joe, for both Janie and Tea Cake "do the wantin'."

There is now in Janie a fruitful, blossomed love that is deep and fulfilling; she has become a real woman who is respected as wife and friend, as she has desired. Tested by the hurricane, both Janie and Tea Cake have demonstrated their loving unselfishness and faithfulness, and Janie has accepted the reality of love that can "come through together" when troubles are at hand.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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