Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Over time, Logan becomes not only less affectionate toward Janie, but begins to boss her around aggressively and reprimand her for not being gracious and willing to help out with household labor. Janie stands up to herself and Logan repeats that he thinks Janie is spoiled.
Logan's unkind treatment of Janie validates her expression of resistance toward marrying him in the first place. Even though Logan has lots of money and land, his demanding treatment of Janie makes it so that she actually doesn't experience any improvement in her material reality, a fact that points out the flaws with Nanny's traditional worldviews about marriage.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
One morning, Logan leaves home to go buy a second mule so that Janie and he can both productively plow the fields. While Logan is away buying the mule, Janie spots a stylish and charismatic young man in town, who goes by the name of Joe Starks. They meet eyes and begin to flirt, as Joe tells Janie of his desire to "be a big voice," to achieve greatness. Specifically, Joe informs Janie of his plan: having arrived from Georgia, Joe plans to move to and establish himself in a predominantly black town nearby in Florida. Janie notes that while Joe does not "represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees," he nonetheless "spoke for far horizon," and this is why she finds herself so attracted to him.
While Logan is looking for ways to make Janie work, Joe makes her dream. Immediately after meeting Joe Starks, Janie says with confidence that he "spoke for far horizon." The idea of the horizon is an important symbol for Janie – it alludes to the idea of possibility, that which Janie may still imagine, the unknowable that can be dreamt about. It is significant that Janie makes this assessment of Joe before actually knowing him; this indicates the impetuous nature of desire (her desires in particular) and her tendency to map ideas about desire onto what it means to love and be loved.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Joe stays around town for what is presumably longer than he had expected to, and sees Janie each day in secret. Joe asks Janie to refer to him by a special nickname – Jody. After scoffing at the idea of Logan making "a dog outa" his wife by forcing her to work behind a plow, Jody tells Janie that a woman of her beauty is meant simply to sit on a front porch and look beautiful. With these thoughts in mind, Jody asks Janie to leave Logan and marry him instead.
While Jody's criticism of Logan and how he treats Janie is apt – that he treats her like a dehumanized animal – the alternative situation of married life that Jody presents to Janie foreshadows the problems of Janie and Jody's marriage. That is, Jody desires Janie as a wife that will be silent, obedient and show no other virtues other than her physical beauty in order to allow him total control. But to Janie, forced to plow the fields every day, that vision sure sounds nice.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
When Logan returns, Janie and he fight again: Logan reiterates his belief that Janie is spoiled and ungrateful, and Janie threatens to run away. The next morning, with the fight of the previous night still unresolved, Logan and Janie continue to bicker. Logan attempts to force Janie to help him out on the field, and she responds by saying that she will never love him or treat him like some kind of god – especially not in the way he expects her to. After a painful end to their fight, Janie immediately runs off to reunite with Jody at a nearby secretly-arranged location and time. They marry before sundown and together run away to the new town.
Janie's fights with Logan indicate that within her first marriage, she is slowly but surely gaining a voice and ability to express herself, though perhaps not in a way that will actually get her needs fulfilled. At this stage in their new relationship, Jody offers Janie a sense of the "horizon" – of possibility and hope that was unbeknownst to her in her marriage with Logan. Whether or not Jody is the perfect match for Janie remains unclear, but it is clear that each step Janie makes is bringing her closer to a fuller and deeper sense of herself.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
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