What is the importance of the concept of horizon? How do Janie and each of her men widen her horizons? What is the significance of the novel’s final sentences in this regard?

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The concept of horizons threads throughout this novel. People look off in the distance to where the sky meets the earth to see a literal horizon. When people think of their own lives, they also see a symbolic horizon where their perceptions, abilities, and experience end. For example, at the beginning of the novel, Janie’s horizon goes as far as expecting to find true love, a love that consists of her being a pear tree “with kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world.”

When Nanny arranges a marriage between Janie and Logan Killicks, Janie hopes that her horizon of true love will come true. However, she soon discovers this is not happening. Janie even tells Nanny,

Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it. (Chapter 3)

Suddenly, Janie’s horizon will not include love that develops simply through marriage.

Janie’s view of her future horizon becomes wider when Joe Starks enters the picture in chapter 4. Janie remembers the fun she seeks in life as Joe convinces her to join him in the adventure of being his wife in Eatonville. With his stylish dress and charming manner, Joe reminds Janie of her desire for an ideal life.

As Janie and Joe make their life together, Janie’s horizon begins to change once again since Joe treats her as a trophy wife who cannot be trusted to think for herself. He even tells her,

Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chicken and cows. (Chapter 6)

Although Janie’s horizon has expanded physically beyond the rural life she had with Nanny and Logan to Eatonville, her notion of love and marriage has again been disappointed.

At this point, in chapter 10, Tea Cake shows up, and once again Janie’s search for true love becomes renewed. Through flirting and teasing, Tea Cake reawakens the desire in Janie to love. Tea Cake is not a man of responsibility like Joe or a man of duty like Logan. Instead, Tea Cake brings fun and love into Janie’s life. Unfortunately, that horizon is covered with the flood waters of a hurricane and then ended with the bite of a rabid dog.

At the very end of the novel, Janie pulls “in the horizon like a great fish-net” (chapter 20). She has realized that Tea Cake and her love for him “could never be dead until she herself had finished thinking and feeling.” In other words, all the horizons of her life are still with her, but especially that of Tea Cake. Perhaps the horizon is not just off in the distance but is actually within one’s soul.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 10, 2019
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