Janie was just a simple girl who grew up in her own place, with her own family. Of course, no one could deny that her parents loved her. It could not possibly be the reason why she left her hometown in Eatonville to search for the love that she always dreamed of ever since she was a child. The story started when Eatonville, Florida natives and Janie Crawford’s family got the news that Janie is returning to Eatonville again, all by himself. The news spread quite fast and Janie soon became the center of attention. Perhaps, being bugged by all the commotions in town, as if Janie really wanted and was happy about everything that had happened to her, she decided to tell her story to her best friend in Eatonville, Pheoby. There that evening, she let her best friend hear everything that was inside her from the moment she left Eatonville, until the moment she came back on that place with no one but herself (Houston, 1998). This was the story of Janie Crawford and her conquest for a thing she classifies as “unconditional love”.
Before digging in to the interpretations, it would be helpful if Janie Crawford’s character will be analyzed first. What happened to her during her childhood? What experiences made her decide that she wants to leave her hometown—her only comfort zone, and search for unconditional love? Could the fact that she left her hometown mean that she was longing for a kind of love that her parents have failed to make her experience? These are the types of questions that will be addressed.
Janie Crawford could be considered an individual with multinational origins. She has traits from both black and white heritage. Perhaps one of the reasons that made Janie decided that she wants to experience true and unconditional love was her mother’s experience. Janie’s mother was raped by a white schoolteacher whose name they could not even identify. Of course, Janie’s grandmother, her mother’s mother, felt really bad and even suffered traumas because of what happened to her daughter. Janie’s mother was also a product of a strained and forced relationship with her master, who also happened to be a white person. Her grandmother was forced to marry her master at a time when they were slaves. Both her grandmother and mother were unmarried but that didn’t really inflict much of a negative impact to Janie. Her grandmother also insisted that Janie marry Logan as her first husband. Well, their relationship did not turn good. She just does not know how to love Logan and appreciate the things that he does. Instead, of sulking and succumbing, she became inspired to start a quest for love—the love that she thinks her grandmother and mother never experienced.
Arguments and Interpretations
Janie’s quest for true, fulfilling and unconditional love made her realize that she was a free soul and an independent person after all. She walked away from her comfort zone, and that alone could be interpreted as an all-out act to fulfill her aspirations—to find that love that she always wanted.
Normally, people would decide to stay in their comfort zones for as long as possible; even if they know there is a possibility that they won’t be able to fulfill their goals if they do not leave and set themselves free. Janie was able to overcome this fear when she decided to take the risk to lose everything she has—her family and her hometown, for the sake of fulfilling her aspirations. Janie neither wanted to be rich nor to be famous. Luxury and fame never got her attention. All that she wants is to be loved and respected and to live a normal and peaceful life. This is actually what girls normally want. Therefore, it could be that Janie’s desires were the author’s interpretation of how girls would normally want to live their adult and married life.
Janie and Her Quest for Unconditional Love
There are a lot of possible things that should have happened to her while she was gone. She could have realized several things because her third and most loved husband, Tea Cake, died just a few days or weeks ago. She could also still be in the denial or bargaining stage of coping. Taking these factors into consideration, it is likely that Janie will realize that her failures in finding the long-lasting and perfect relationship mean that it is better to be alone than to be with anyone else. Most people will really think that something isn’t really meant for them after they suffer from the frustrations and disappointments brought by failures. The same could also be possible for Janie. Janie is only a normal country girl who risked everything she got to find love after all. She attempted to search for the love that she dreamed of only to find out that she failed.
Familial and Social Influence in Janie’s Quest for Unconditional Love
There is a possibility that Janie tried to seek out love, independence and freedom of the pressure brought by the familial and societal norms present in their culture. Janie does not have a concrete basis when it comes to the things that she has to believe in and apply to her life because she does not even know what her real nationality and race is. She does not even know her father. All that she knows is that her mother is black and her father is white. Perhaps she became confused what to believe in and so she decided to run away and escape all the pressure she has been subjected to ever since she was a child. Such behavior of Janie could actually be considered normal considering the fact that she is attempting for an unconditional and fulfilling love. Fortunately along the way, she gained her own independence and freedom which is a good thing because that’s also a part of her dreams when she was a child.
Janie said that “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly” (Houston, 1998). Jenny’s only dream was to find the love that she needs and live just like how a normal girl would.
How Janie ended up with her quest for Love
Logan Killicks was Janie’s first husband. Logan was nothing compared to other men in town. He was old-fashioned and his job was to farm a potato field. Normally, girls would try to pick a partner who could provide them with both financial and literal security. Now, there are several reasons why she chose him to be his first husband. She certainly felt secured whenever she was with this man although it is quite evident how hardly Logan could provide for his and Janie’s needs because of his occupation. Nevertheless, Janie loved him because he was able to make Janie feel secured and because Janie’s grandmother trusted this man so much. Their relationship did not really last long. They eventually got separated no matter how Nanny wanted him to be the one for Janie. Maybe it is just that they are not meant for each other.
Thinking that she still has an edge when it comes to love and romance, Janie still continued to search for the kind of love she always wanted. She thought she finally got that love when she met Joe Sparks and left her first husband. Joe Sparks was a rich and a good-looking man; he was also the elected mayor at Eatonville. It could be assumed that he was able to fill the gap that Logan was not able to fill because Janie and Sparks’ husband-wife relationship lasted for 20 years. Girls wouldn’t normally leave when they know that it is not time to leave or when they know that they really do not have to leave. Sparks definitely satisfied Janie’s needs but he failed to respect and love Janie the way she wanted to be loved. It could still be considered as an amazing relationship because both of them were able to hold on to each other despite the fact that Janie doesn’t feel loved by Sparks anymore. A woman, especially one who desperately looks for the type of love she wants and needs, will usually leave a man who simply cannot provide her with that kind of love. Janie was not that type of woman. Her 20 years with Sparks is the very evidence that she loved her; it’s just that it didn’t work out because Sparks failed to make Janie feel the feeling of being loved. And then she met Tea Cake, her third and last husband. Janie found the love that she had been looking for in Tea Cake. They almost lived happily ever after at everglade but Tea Cake died when disaster struck their place. Janie just could not bear to stay in a place full of her most beloved husband’s memories so she decided to return to her hometown. In the end, Janie’s quest for true love could be called a success because she was able to experience that “love” at the very least.
Janie’s experiences could be regarded as strong evidence that the world of relationship is a complicated one unlike what other people think it is. People, especially adolescents, usually think that every relationship has to be coated with sugar to call it perfect. What these people do not know is that a relationship could either turn out to be rewarding or confusing. It is quite evident that Janie’s quest for the love that she wanted from the very start had failed. However, her deeds showed that all that it should take a woman to do what she wants is the courage to take the risks and nothing else.
Houston, Z., Their Eyes were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1998.