Their Eyes Were Watching God
It is undeniably one of my best movies, I have watched it so many times and each time, its morale cushions my faith in making a decision at a crossroad of my life. It is adapted from African American writer; Zora Neale Hurston’s best-known novel set in Southern Florida in the twentieth century, and produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Production, starring Halle Berry and Michael Ealy. [highlight color="yellow"]‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ is a story that shows the resilience of a free spirited woman in overcoming the different men and situations that held her down in a search of what she considered true happiness[/highlight].
There has been arguments on how much justice the movie really did to the book, it has particularly been criticised for depicting it as a story of love. I have only read study guides of the book, but the overwhelming message that keeps me glued to this movie is not so much of its application to love, but the ability of a woman to damn people’s criticisms in search of what she wanted.
When Janie was sixteen, her grandmother saw her kissing a boy, and out of fear that she would come home pregnant one day, she married her off to Logan, an old rich farmer who was more interested in having a wife to work on his farm than in romance.
Janie wanted love, adventure and all things wild, so she ran away with Jo, an ambitious man who was going to buy a small town. For a while she lived the life she wanted, full of fun and adventure until Jo became the mayor of Eatonville and forced her to be a stepford wife. Jo wanted a woman to show off, who will sit on the front porch all dressed up with only half a smile , not a woman who lets her hair down having fun and laughing out loud with other people in the town. Once again, she had a man and lots of money but not the happiness she wanted.
[one_half last="no"]People just couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy; she was the envy of all women in the town. Her husband had power and money, what more could she want?[/one_half]
After years of a bitter marriage, Jo died and Janie fell in love with Teacake, but he wasn’t who people expected, he was a drifter and gambler and worked on a field harvesting beans. She sold her store, kept all her money in the bank and took off with him to live a life filled with love, romance and adventure. There were many men of prestige in the town that wanted her, why did she go with a common man who is half her age? Again, the town went wild with gossip!
She loved and was loved back, danced, laughed, travelled from one town to the other, met people, tried new things, did all the things she had always wanted to do. But her new found happiness was short lived again. Tea Cake was bitten by a rabid dog while he was trying to save Janie, he had rabies which affected his brain and made him attack Janie, Janie shot him in self defence and he died.
She returned to Eatonville. She walked into the town in tattered clothes, dragging her heavy feet, looking worn and tired. Other women gathered gossiping with a ‘we told you so’ expression on their faces, and spite on their lips. She ignored them with a smile on her face and walked into her dusty apartment to tell her life story to her friend, who will pass it on to the people in the town.
Here is the thing, however short her happiness with Teacake was, she had what she always wanted all her life, she pursued it against all odds, and she got it. At the end of her journey she might not have met up with the societal definition of success but she returned with an unusual sense of fulfilment, happier than she had ever been, and for her that’s all that mattered.
Writer: Shola Okubote