Janie did gain some very valuable insight into her self; she had thought that her dreams could be fulfilled through someone else's dreams.
After Joe's death Janie no longer gave away her power to others, she knew what she wanted and was going to be very cautious about who she let into her life. The townspeople were eager to criticize Janie for her limited period of grief and mourning. While Janie was struggling to stabilize her life and ensuring that her physiological and safety needs were met, she was protective of her heart and limiting her love needs. In limiting her needs for love and affection, she gave herself love and affection -- she was addressing her need for self-esteem.
Janie's feeling and actions align with Marslow's Theory of Human Motivation. In his journal article, Maslow discusses degrees of relative satisfaction; he states that a need not be 100% satisfied before a person can move on to satisfy their next level of needs. He believed that individuals work to reduce their dissatisfaction at each level and that when the individual is comfortable that the needs are partially met, they can then move on a higher level of needs. Janie's inheritance and growing self-confidence provides her with partially met physiological and safety needs, thereby providing the foundation for addressing higher level needs.
Several months after Joe's death, Janie meets Vergible Tea Cake Woods. They flirt and court one another. Tea Cake is not interested in possessing or controlling Janie, he just wants her companionship. From the beginning, Tea Cake encouraged Janie to grow. On their first encounter he teaches her to play checkers. Janie was glowing "Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play" (Hurston, 1937, Location 1721-29). Janie was attracted to Tea Cake because of his willingness to teach her checkers and to not attempt to deny her an opportunity to grow.
Janie hesitated to fall for Tea Cake. She feared she was too old for him, that his intentions were not in her best interest and that he was interested in her inheritance. Janie consulted a trusted friend who told her that Tea Cake was a person to avoid. Janie even tried to control her own thoughts of Tea Cake. Eventually, she gave herself permission to have feelings for Tea Cake. She thought that Tea Cake "looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom -- a pear tree blossom in the spring" (Huston, 1937, Location 1875-82). Janie's years of being stifled and possessed by a man had come to an end, she was retuning to the Janie she was at sixteen -- contemplating what would make her happy.
These thought and behaviors were moving Janie through the esteem level of Marslow's hierarchy and she was beginning to address self-actualization. When Pheoby spoke to Janie, she tried to convince Janie would be better off with the undertaker in Sanford. Janie told Pheoby that "Jody classed me off. Ah didn't. Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain't draggin' me off nowhere Ah don't want tuh go. Ah always did want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn't 'low me tuh" (Hurston, 1937, Location1959-67).
Janie was beginning to believe in her ability to make her own decisions and ignored the gossip and advice from the townspeople. She refused to conform to cultural belief of marrying a man for money and property at any cost. She told Pheoby that she and Tea Cake were planning to get married and she planned to sell the store. Pheoby questioned why she wanted to sell the store and Janie replied:
"Cause Tea Cake ain't no Jody Starks, and if he tried tuh be, it would be uh complete flommuck. But de minute Ah marries 'im everybody is gointuh be makin' comparisons. Wo us is goin' off somewhere and start all over in Tea Cake's way. Dis ain't no business proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandma's way, no Ah means tuh live mine" (Hurston, 1937, Location 1983 -- 99).
Both Tea Cake and Janie were search for self-actualization. They both ventured out into the unknown; together they moved to the Everglades hoping for a more satisfying and stable life. Throughout Janie and Tea Cake's marriage, they both encouraged one another to grow. There was one exception to this -- when either felt their marriage was threatened. When Tea Cake feared Janie maybe interest in the brother of a neighbor, he beat her. Mrs. Turner was prejudice against blacks with very dark complexions. Specifically, she did not Tea Cake and told Janie that she married below herself.
" When Mrs. Turner's brother came and she brought him over to be introduced, Tea Cake had a brainstorm. Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession" (Hurston, 1937, Location 2440-53).
The possibility of Janie leaving him caused Tea Cake to digress from self-actualization to two levels lower in Maslow's hierarchy to the need of love. Tea Cakes lack of confidence in Janie's love led him to beating her. This beating was his way of showing Janie and others that he controlled her. When Sop-de-Bottom, another neighbor in the muck, spoke to him about the marks Tea Cake's beating had left on Janie, Tea Cake told him:
"Janie is wherever Ah want tub be. Dat's de kind uh wife she is and Ah love her for it. Ah wouldn't be knockin' her around. Ah didn't wants whup her last night, but ol' Mis' Turner done sent for her brother tuh come tuh bait Janie in and take her way from me. Ah didn't whup Janie 'cause she done nothin'. Ah beat her tuh show dem Turners who is boss" (Hurston, 1937, Location 2453-70).
In the end his insecurities led to his demise. While he was on death's bed with rabbis and delusional, Tea Cake's mind took him back to his fears of losing Janie to Mrs. Turner's brother. He threatens to kill Janie with a gun because he believed she was unfaithful to him. In self-protection, Janie shot Tea Cake and his death caused her great agony.
Janie lost her home to the hurricane and now she lost her husband as well. She gave away what possession she had left and return to Eatonville. She arrived in her overalls and passed by the town porch-sitters. She knew they were dying of curiosity and when she had returned to Eatonville alone. She believed in herself and would not let the townspeople affect her. In sharing her story with Phoeby, she moved Phoeby closer to self-actualization. Janie told Phoeby that: "nobody else can't tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about living for theyselves" (Hurston, 1937, Location 3119-28). Phoeby replied that "Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus' listenin' tuh you" (Hurston, 1937, Locations 319-28). Janie was not only realizing her self-actualization, she was helping others find theirs.
Applying Maslow's hierarchy of needs to Their Eyes Were Watching God allows the reader to better understand the motivation behind each character's words and behavior. The road to self-actualization is filled with bumps and detours, but Janie was heroically found and fulfill her dreams thereby, become the person she was meant to be.
Hurston, Z.N. Their Eyes Were Watching God. (1937). HarperCollins e-books. Retrieved from http://www.Amazon.com.
Ondieki, B. The Denunciation of Patriarchy and Capitalism in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. (2009). Lambert Academic Publishing.
Steinback, J. The Grapes of Wrath. (1939). Penguin Classics
Maslow, a.H. Toward a Psychology of Being, (1961). Kindle addition. Retrieved from http://www.Amazon.com.
Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. (Date unknown). [Graph illustration of Maslow's hierarchy by…