Their Eyes Were Watching God, explores the traditional stereotypes as one of its main themes, specifically the way that stereotypical ideas affect the relationship between men and women. The plot contains a series of relationships that Janie is having with several men which starts with a simple kiss from Johnny, followed by marriages with Logan Killicks and Jody Starks, and then finally, Tea Cake. A woman like Janie, specifically black women, legally had no voice or role during the 1900’s. Men considered women as their property and they thought their only job was to take care of the house and children.
Janie’s social background limited her to perform certain duties because according to the stereotypical women, her role is to get married and to perform duties as a wife while their husbands’ role was to provide for the family’s needs.As soon as the novel begins, it’s obvious that the roles of men and women play a big part in Their Eyes Were Watching God. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on the board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of a sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by time.
That is the life of men. In this opening paragraph of the novel, Zora Neale Hurston differentiates dreams and wishes of men and women in an interesting way. By using the horizon as a symbol, Janie is saying that men wait for their dreams instead of chasing after them. She refers to this symbol repeatedly in the following chapters throughout the novel. Janie’s grandmother Nanny has arranged for her marriage with Logan Killicks, who was an old black man. There was no presence of love and everyday for Janie was basically a chore. Even though Nanny knows that Janie is not happy, she demands the marriage is a good one. “Heah yo is wid de onliest organ in town, amonst colored folks, in yo’ parlow.
Got a house bought and paid for sixty acres uh land right on de big road… Lawd have mussy! Dat’s de very prong all us black women gits hung on.” In Nanny’s speech, the author is trying to emphasize that female’s role in society is to look good and get marry and let the man do the all work. During Janie’s arranged marriage with Logan, Jody Starks appears out of nowhere and she feels like her dreams has came true finally. But after a while, the marriage turns out to be that Jody is no different than Logan. He treats Janie as his property and not someone he actually loves.
We can give an example for this when Jody asked Janie to tie her hair up while working in the store rather than leave it down. Another example is when he criticizes her in public.