Expressions of Love in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

Earlier on in the semester, in my post entitled Reading & Relationships , and more recently in last week’s post, You Can’t Stop Me, You Can Only Hope to Contain Me & Other Musings on Being a “Piece of Work” , I touched upon various issues that arise when one is in, and aspects of, romantic relationships. In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, the main character Janie experiences many difficulties in in love. These problems which she encounters makes her, and us as readers, question how we express our love to those we care about. Is this thing we are imparting onto another is really “love”, or a sense of controlling that we disguise with kind words and quaint gestures? This is sometimes hard to determine, because what we need to understand is that expressions of love are unique to the individual.

At the beginning of Eyes,  Janie is shamed by her friends and neighbors for running off with Tea Cakes, a man much younger than she, later to be revealed as a con man who swindles her for her money. In the cinematic depiction of this literary piece, Halle Berry’s character attempts to justify her actions by saying that “it was a real love” that led her to run off from her husband, her family, her friends, and cast aside all that she had know. In the 20th century, and even today, a certain amount of foolishness is seen in dropping everything you know to pursue a man. And I agree, it is a dangerous game to play, because what you think is true love could potentially be anything but. You run off, and in the end you could be left with nothing.

This circumstance happens to many people- male and female alike, due to this simple fact: we cannot expect for those we love to “love” us in the same way we do them. I do not mean this in a negative connotation, as if to say that we cannot expect for someone to love us as much as we love them. It is not so much a matter of quality or quantity as it is a matter of execution.

For example, I am someone who openly expresses my feelings for someone in a very “lovey, cuddly” kind of way. Not everyone is like me in that respect- maybe for somebody, the “I love yous” and and all the fuddy- duddy cheesy romantic comedy stuff, on top of just my genuine feelings for them, is too much. But when I love someone, I go out of my way to make sure that they feel valued by me because that is a way in which I show that I care. Now, if I wanted someone to do the same for me- I would date myself. Again, let me clarify: I am not saying that I don’t want love or to be loved or anything like that- but what I do what is to be loved in a way that someone who is not me only can. I appreciate seeing the ways in which somebody else uniquely expresses their feelings for me, in whatever heartfelt ways they do- even if those methods are different than mine. That does not make it any less valuable or admirable or romantic.

In fact, I find that it teaches me lessons and gives me little pointers in how I display my love- maybe I like the way that this person loves and can stand to take a page from their book, not so that I love them in the same fashion as they love me, but so that I can make sure I am loving them to the best of my abilities. What I just wrote sounds as if  I’m doing away with my previous “What I do what is to be loved in a way that someone who is not me only can.. If I wanted someone to do the same for me- I would date myself” statement, but I’m not. I simply think that being in a relationship with someone who functions in a different capacity than you gives you the chance to learn positive things from them, and make you a better lover of others. Lots of couples run into problem when they do not recognize that and say “Well why doesn’t so- and- so love me like this? Why can’t they do __________? Why aren’t they like ___________?” Instead of holding people up to expectations of love being true, honest and genuine, we hold them up to the expectations of ourselves, or even somebody completely different. And I think that that destroys a relationship. You’re not with somebody to be with somebody that they aren’t. You can’t force someone to be something different, good OR bad, that they simply are not. The whole point of this “loving” thing is to take them as they are and to grow together in positive ways, not change them to suit your personal needs.

Janie sounds like she could be having a hard time understanding that. I’m sure she would have liked for Tea Cakes to have loved her on her own terms, or on those of someone of better moral standing. But she couldn’t change him, so it was over. And honestly, in that case, it’s a good thing because it’s wasn’t so much love as it was greed disguised as “love”. But now we find her with Jody- someone who wants to “make a woman” out of what would be considered an unruly vagabond, change her. To the point that he smacks her around, belittles her, embarrasses her, and then claims it’s for the sake of love and a good moral standing as husband and wife. Outsiders could see a mayor and his cute, complacent, happy little wife, but in reality there is this power and personality struggle. At this point, Janie doesn’t even care about love, she knows that these expressions aren’t it this time. And she’s not really interested in something so ingenuine, so rude. She can only love how she knows to, and that’s the best she can do. If somebody else doesn’t like it, then they clearly don’t like her. So far, that’s what we’re seeing.

It would be nice to find the kind of “true love” that would make us not regret dropping everything and running off with them, wouldn’t that be something?

– W

Works Cited:

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.


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