Janie suffers under Joe's iron rule and is forced to keep silent, refrain from associating with the locals, hide her beautiful hair, and putter around the store. Basically, Joe keeps Janie socially and emotionally isolated. And all this isolation leads to being compliant: Janie, although occasionally speaking her mind , shows little spunk during their marriage.
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However, her caring nature won't allow her to distance herself from him while Joe is dying. She does everything in her power for him but in the end feels victorious at his death. This sense of victory isn't surprising: she's won some freedom at last. Having lived under Joe's thumb for so long, Janie is cautious when she first meets her Prince Charming, the awesomely named Tea Cake.
Though they have chemistry, he seems a little suspect. He's much younger than she is, for one thing, and he doesn't seem reliable. In fact, she falls head over heels in love with him:. Janie awoke next morning by feeling Tea Cake almost kissing her breath away. Holding her and caressing her as if he feared she might escape his grasp and fly away.
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After a long time of passive happiness, she got up and opened the window and let Tea Cake leap forth and mount to the sky on a wind. That was the beginning of things. She's so swept off her feet that she marries him and embarks on a new, rural life. And, despite what her nosy neighbors think, she ends up liking her change in material status. Even though she's not well-to-do, she enjoys the freedom it brings. Now that she's not chained to middle-class values, she can associate with everyone she wants and speak out freely.
For one thing, Janie learns that true love comes with its own consequences. She discovers what it means to be jealous for the first time. She worries and cries at home when Tea Cake goes missing:. She also suffers because of his mistakes.
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When a hurricane rolls in, Tea Cake makes the literally fatal mistake of refusing to leave when he's offered a ride out of the Everglades. This decision to stay behind triggers a chain of events that ultimately leads to his death. She can't help him survive:.
But she can help him die. This shows her maturity—she values herself and realizes that Tea Cake is beyond help. Rabies is a terrible way to die. And, however deeply she mourns his death, she does not—as might be expected—blame herself. Instead, Janie extends her energy toward keeping his memory alive.
She doesn't despair; she picks herself up, goes home, and passes on her story. In the end, she thanks Tea Cake for giving her the opportunity to love and for taking her far beyond her horizons.
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Thanks to Tea Cake, Janie finally feels that she has lived a full and satisfying life—he definitely taught her that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. All rights reserved. Topics Character Roles Protagonist, Antagonist Tools of Characterization. Paradoxically, the times in her life during which she cannot be a feminist are what ultimately make Janie an exemplar of feminist strength. Janie marries Logan Killicks, her first husband, not because she wants to be with him, but because she wants to please her grandmother and hopes that she will learn to love Logan eventually.
Rather than following her instincts and insisting on retaining her independence, Janie defers to the wishes of others. Her marriage brings more forced capitulations. Logan, a well-meaning but oppressive man, wants to keep Janie under his thumb. He calls her spoiled and insists that she labor in the fields alongside him. In addition to this attempted physical oppression, Janie suffers from the emotional oppression of being trapped in a affectionless marriage. Because she is so fed up with Logan and his domineering ways, Janie musters up the courage to leave behind the only home she has ever known—something she almost certainly would not have done had she not married Logan in the first place.
It is also more damaging. Jody, who is powerful and charming, imposes increasingly strict demands on his wife. He does not allow her to speak in public to large groups; he dislikes it when she socializes with other men; he insists that she hide her beautiful hair; he berates her when he believes that she is performing badly at work; and when he is enraged, he beats her. Despite flashes of rebellion, for the most part she behaves like the subservient wife Jody wants her to be.
For years, she follows his orders, silences herself, and sticks around after he hits her.
When she finally gives voice to her thoughts and tells Jody what she thinks of him, he dies, as if brought down by the force of her rage. Years of mistreatment give Janie the power to fell men with her words. They also give her an outsized appreciation for her freedom. Because she knows what it means to be ground down by a man, Janie appreciates her single life far more than she could have had she never experienced real unhappiness.
With Tea Cake, Janie enjoys a fulfilling relationship characterized by intellectual, emotional, and physical compatibility.
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