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Joe Strehlow

12/6/08

Janie’s Perspective

The moving and evocative novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale

Hurston illuminates that one’s viewpoint and actions closely replicate his or her scruples,

mindsets, and imperfections. In the early twentieth century tale, Hurston takes the reader

through the journey of Janie’s life with her friends, lovers, along with the rest of society, all of

which greatly influence her journey. Janie’s actions and perspectives reflect her values,

attitudes, and flaws.

Janie reveals her values through her perspective on others. When her aficionado, Joe

Starks, tries to make her leave her husband, “Janie [pulls] back a long time because [Joe

Starks does] not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he [speaks] for the far

horizon” (29). Janie’s consideration of a future relationship convey that she values a

predictable future, like sun-up, pollen, and blooming, and will not just fall under dreams. She

does not want to go unnoticed and stay back while Joe is attempting to reach the horizon.

Janie is afraid of being left behind, as she values sociality and togetherness. Joe’s desire to

reach the far horizon worries Janie because her apprehensive self causes her to focus on

practicality and probability; she knows Joe will most likely leave her behind chasing his

dreams. Moreover, Janie expresses that she values being noticed when the author describes

her as a woman who has plenty of “life beneath the surface but it [is] kept beaten down by the

wheels” (76). Janie feels degraded by society who just pushes her under; she wants to fight to

the top, as she values authority and power. She wants to fight the unmovable wheels on which

the pedestal of society rests on, so she can move up above the others and push them down.
Society doesn’t only rest on the wheeled pedestal, but it controls the movement. The wheels

have neither start nor an end; the beating down cannot be stopped unless one breaks through

the barrier of society. Janie’s wish to do this conveys that she believes she has the courage no

other underdogs have. Janie values her courage and her ability to stand up for herself, and not

just go on the same level as everyone else, but rise above them.

Janie has an attitude which illuminates that she is above others, as she believes she has

the right to. For instance, after Janie’s first marriage with Logan, “nobody [puts] anything on

the seat of Logan’s wagon to make it ride glorious on the way to his house” (21-22). Janie is

unaware of the fact that life is not full of maids and servants who will eliminate all her

problems; she does not know the true hardships of life. Janie’s mental non-acceptation of

normal and inglorious ride to her husband’s house suggests she takes many of her life’s

pleasures for granted. Janie’s attitude suggests that she thinks she can get whatever her heart

desires, no matter who is involved or what the situation may be. The wagon represents Janie’s

journey so far in life, how she is always just carried along indolently; having nothing on the

seat of the wagon to make it more glorious clarifies that Janie has not only been allowed to

live passively, but gets privileges for doing nothing. In addition, Janie thinks of the many

hardships of her life and how people are not orderly, “That Post Office too. People always

coming in and asking for mail at the wrong time” (54). Janie’s complaint over a minor

inconvenience elucidates that Janie cannot be satisfied with her life, as her attitude prohibits it.

Unless she changes her attitude, she will not be able to live her life as a content individual.

Packages and various goods travel to and from various Post Offices; since Janie complains

when goods are being picked up, she feels that those parcels are being taken from her, which

sheds light on the fact that she feels she has the right to everything. The Post Office is also an
infrastructural element that is typically used by the middle class and below, portraying that

Janie believes she is above the standard member of society. Janie’s absurd and somewhat

irrational values and attitudes are directly linked to her flawing characteristics. For example,

Janie seems to have endless desires for power, “Here [Joe is] just pouring honor all over her;

building her a high chair for her to sit in and overlook the world and here she [is] just pouting

over it” (62). Joe gives Janie, in his eyes, everything a girl yearns for. However, Janie’s selfish

attitude causes her to just keep wanting more for herself; when one steals, it must come from

another, which conveys that what Janie steals for herself is being taken from those with less.

Janie’s larceny exploits the fact that she is completely apathetic towards others and their lives,

even though she complains of comparatively minute issues in her life. Furthermore, Janie’s

attitudes and values lead to her major flaws when she thinks it is appropriate that skin color

determines one’s place in society; she thinks that anyone who looks “more white folkish than

herself [is] better than she [is]…” (144). Janie’s perspective that social status depends on skin

color and white features illustrate that she values one’s looks over one’s personality, which is a

flaw because looks do not reflect the person’s true self. Janie’s perception of different races

also reflects her perception of people in general; she believes that there will always be lesser

and greater human beings. Her negative perspective on what affects one’s status reflects her

overall pessimistic attitude towards life. If Janie gained more optimism and changed her

perspective, she would learn to resolve her negligible concerns, thus resulting in becoming a

better person altogether.

Janie’s values, attitudes, and flaws not only reflect who she is in society, but who she

truly is to herself. Janie’s perspective reveals that she values power and authority, in addition

to her attitude of superiority and that others are lesser. Her perplexing values and attitudes
form a connection to her flaws; these important aspects of Janie are why her life is not how

she wishes it to be. The viewpoints of one, along with one’s values and outlooks, are directly

linked to his or herflawed characteristics.