Tag Archives: Marriage

Nature Begins the Story

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. (Hurston 11)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

This passage marks the beginning of Janie’s passage into womanhood. Before she kisses Johnny Taylor, Janie has a “revelation” that marriage is much like nature, in the way that everything fits together in a “love embrace.” There is a sense of happiness coming from the way that the sun and the breeze speak to her in a way that teaches her about a human system such as marriage. What makes this very important is that it establishes her naivety very immediately before throwing her into a forced marriage. Given we are already given a foreshadow that her relationships do not work out, it is possible that her original view of marriage is the best one in that it is natural, as compared to the relationships she ends up paired with.

The beauty of newness in a bees life.

“She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation.” (11)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

This appears to be the very moment that Janie realizes what she wants out of life. Unfortunately, while the intensity of this moment is one that we often find in new love, she will one day find that it wavers with age and only becomes stale and bland. Beautiful imagery though! Interestingly, Hurston uses a bee to create this moment of realization, when the bee itself would never live long enough to lose that feeling of newness.

Thoughts and Mockery

“In the few days to live before she went to Logan Killicks and his often-mentioned sixty acres, Janie asked inside of herself and out. She was back and forth to the pear tree continuously wondering and thinking. Finally out of Nanny’s talk and her own conjectures she made a sort of comfort for herself. Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so” (Hurston, 21).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Janie convinces herself with her own inner thoughts, the words of encouragement given to her by her grandmother, and words of advice she has heard the elderly townspeople say, that marrying Logan and following this path in her life will lead to doing the right thing. What I find interesting is that she persuades herself it is worth doing despite knowing she doesn’t quite want to, and that even before she marries him her days of ‘living’ are limited. She wants love and she thinks this could turn out to be the way to find it, but what she really wants is freedom, she just doesn’t know it yet.

I also can’t help but sense a little bit of mockery of Janie’s reasoning on behalf of the narrator. “She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so” seems to mildly attack Janie’s naivete or potentially dangerous trust of what other people say, even though such people are considered older and wiser.