In the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” written by Zora Neale Hurston, a conflict builds between Janie wanting individuality and also having to deal with others outward societal conformity. This conflict between man and society, or Janie and society, is the backbone of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” as Janie’s conflict with others comes with her journey of self-actualization in who she is and who she wants to be. However, in order to accomplish and finish her journey, she has to face oppression from her husband(s), grandmother, and society.
Displaying conformity to society and its standards when one wants to follow their own standards is very difficult, and Janie learned this through much of her adult life and even when she was younger. While in her younger years, her grandmother, always wanted her to marry young and to a rich, older man, so she can become an ordinary and obedient housewife. While she does it, she certainly resents it but does not show anyone because of the repercussions that would follow if she did go through with it. As she grows older, and she marries Logan, she starts questioning herself and her situation and eventually leaves, but on Logan’s “blessing”.
As she continues on her journey from leaving Logan, she thinks that she is finding “love” when she runs off with Jody but the sad truth of it is she is sucked back into an even worse conformity index than she ever has before. Jody’s main goals are through money, power, social status and to doll up Janie. However, while all this is happening in their marriage, she is losing all of her individuality, which she endures for years on end and repeat. Being that she is the mayor’s wife, she has to wear a mask and truly commit to conforming to the societal standards from everyone else in the town were Jody is the mayor. In her fully committing for so long she loses sight of what she is and buries her true self away. Another addition to her hiding her real self is when Jody forces Janie to wear a kerchief to suppress her youth, gender, and individuality. Doing this further pushes the idea that Janie is nothing but an extension to Jody. Janie, as Jody grows old, finally comes out about how he has treated her and how she very much hates it, but in doing this it enrages the older man, which does not end well as he dies not long afterward.
A little while later after the death of Jody, she decides to rack up with a man named Tea Cake. Doing this the community pushes on Janie, but she ignores the gossip that comes along with her wanting to do her own thing, wear her own clothes, and when she wants to do what she wants to do. In her new relationship, she starts pulling away further from the conformity of her partner and his ideas along with everyone else’s on what’s appropriate for her. Janie finally snaps from all of the tension from society’s expectation and Janie’s own ideals when she is forced into an altercation with Tea Cake. The choice comes down to killing Tea Cake for her freedom of continuing to follow by society’s standards. She chooses the latter of the two and kills Tea Cake, which finalizes her freedom and independence.
To sum up and close, in the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” written by Zora Neale Hurston, a conflict builds between Janie wanting individuality and also having to deal with others outward societal conformity. This tension and conflict stem from her journey into self-actualization, and society’s standards that her husbands and grandmother along with the society have placed on her.
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