14 September 2017
In the novel, Their Eyes were Watching God, the protagonist, Janie Crawford, struggles to develop purpose and yearning within her life. She aims to discover this craving within numerous relationships, but instead comes up empty until she meets Tea Cake, the love of her life. At the beginning and the end of the novel, two scenes occur where Janie becomes criticized by the individuals around her. Both interactions ensue directly after the death of Tea Cake, a time of weakness. Judged based off inaccurate assumptions, Janie is able to ignore both group’s convictions and reflect upon the beautiful memories she cultivated with her husband. In the end, Janie eventually proceeds through the discernments against her and cultivates self-acceptance and peace without her husband.
Within the first pages, Janie immediately becomes condemned regarding her appearance when she walks back through the town of Eatonville. Gossiping and whispering ensues upon her unexpected arrival on each of the neighbor’s porch. One of the woman, Pearl Stone, questions Janie’s motives for coming back. Pearl criticizes her ability to hold men, while others whisper about where’s “dat money her husband took and died and left her” (Hurston 2). More importantly, the men in Eatonville perceive much different aspects of Janie. They begin appreciating her astonishing beauty. The women notice her informalities, such as the dirty overalls that Janie sports, while the men discern her “great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume” (Hurston 3). The women also talk about her age and how she is “too old for a boy like Tea Cake” (Hurston 3). Obviously, they assume that since Janie is coming back to Eatonville alone, that Tea Cake must have left her. In reality, we later discover that Janie was forced to kill her beloved husband. The women’s judgements upon Janie display their concealed feelings of jealousy and envy over Janie’s lifestyle and beauty. However, the women are wrong in their judgements. They do not know the details of Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake, nor do they know why Janie walks through the town, without her husband. The assessment that Tea Cake is “off wid some gal so young she ain’t even get no hairs” is incredibly false given that no one knows that Tea Cake is dead (Hurston 2). Janie and Tea Cake contributed so much love to each other, while the residents of Eatonville cannot relate to such a deep, loving connection. Their gossip arises due to Janie’s vulnerability and their undisclosed envy of Janie’s life.
The final scene of judgement occurred during Janie’s court appearance regarding the death of Tea Cake. The judge sympathizes with Janie and inevitably, the jury decides that the death of Tea Cake was “entirely accidental and justifiable,” excusing Janie of all le...