Marriage in A Streetcar Named Desire and Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Marriage is a very delicate and complicated thing, but with the right amount of love and respect, it can last forever. Their Eyes Were Watching God and A Streetcar Named Desire retain many views and characteristics of marriage: the good and the bad. In these two stories, the authors give the audience a glimpse as to what being in a relationship was like in the past. Tennessee Williams and Lora Zeale Nelson really open the eyes of their audience to the harsh realities of what marriage could have been like.

These stories demonstrate to the audience what a good relationship and a bad relationship look like. Most importantly, they exhibit how love and respect are key factors in a flourishing marriage. Their Eyes Were Watching God gives its’ audience a view of many different relationships. It starts with recognizing Nanny, and how she was raped by a white man resulting in Janie’s mother, who was also raped and had Janie. Neither of the two women were married. This leaves Janie with no relationship to look up to. Young Janie is naive to it all. Nanny witnesses Janie kissing Johnny Taylor. (Janie is 16 at this point in time.)

Nanny decides it is time for Janie to get married. An age that today would be viewed as insensible. Janie marries a farmer, Logan Killicks. He is very old and very unappealing to Janie but she marries him anyway for the sake of Nanny’s conscience. Nanny says, “Ah’m ole now. Ah can’t be always guidin’ yo’ feet from harm and danger. Ah wants to see you married right away” (Hurston 13). Janie’s first marriage is loveless and unenjoyable.

Although he never physically abuses her, he does abuse her with his words. He is very unpleasant and obnoxious towards her. He remarks, “If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah fust wife never bothered me ‘bout choppin’ no wood nohow. She’d grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten” (Hurston 26). When she complains to Nanny, she is beaten for not being a grown up. Which is very unreasonable because she is only 16 years old. Logan talks of forcing Janie to do outdoor labor and Janie has had enough. He treats her with no respect and with no love.

Along comes Joe Starks, who paints a lovely picture of their future together. He sweet talks Janie into marrying him and Janie is hopeful for her pear tree love. Everything starts off great: Janie is treated well and is bought whatever she wants. However, it is not long before Jody starts treating Janie with disrespect. After Jody becomes mayor of Eatonville, he is snobbish and makes Janie exempt herself from partaking in ordinary activities.

However, he does make her work in the store that he owns, which is quite ironic. Whenever Janie messes up or does anything in particular, he patronizes and beats her. While arguing over a mistake Janie has made, he says, “Aw naw they don’t. They just think they’s thinkin’. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one” (Hurston 71). He even makes her wear her hair in a wrap because he does not trust her to stay loyal to him.

Janie is done with accepting Jody’s treatment towards her. At his deathbed, she unleashes her every anger, disappointment, and exhaustion towards him. He dies and Janie leaves yet another marriage without experiencing love and respect. Finally, Tea Cake (Vergible Woods) comes along and sweeps Janie off of her feet. Regardless of the age difference, in Janie’s eyes, Tea Cake is perfect. They run away together and get married. Tea Cake does have his flaws: On occasion, he beats Janie and at one point steals her money. Janie overlooks all of this because of the love she feels for Tea Cake.

He does have something that Janie’s other two relationships did not: respect. He treats Janie equally. He teaches Janie how to shoot a gun and they work side by side in the Everglades. Once the hurricane comes, and the rabid dog bites Tea Cake, resulting in his death, Janie is overcome with sorrow. She finally finds her pear tree love and it slips between her grasp. Despite the heart-breaking outcome, she does have something to deduce from her marriage with Tea Cake: the sense of mutual respect and true love.

A Streetcar Named Desire never shows marriage in a flattering light. It reveals to us the story of Blanche’s previous marriage. Blanche was very much in love with her husband, but it turned out he was gay. After she catches him in bed with another man, she speaks so crudely to him that he commits suicide. She informs Stanley and Stella and it is noticeable by the tone of her voice that she feels extremely guilty and dejected about the incident. She says to Stanley, “Poems a dead boy wrote. I hurt him the way you would like to hurt me, but you can’t! I’m not young and vulnerable any more. But my young husband was and I–never mind about that! Just give them back to me!” (Williams, Sc. 2, 43).

In this marriage, love is half-hearted and respect is nowhere to be found. The marriage between Stanley and Stella is not much better, if not worse. They say they love each other, but in actuality, it is just sexual attraction. Stanley is an abusive alcoholic. Whenever Stella speaks her mind or tries to tell him what to do, he hits her. Nevertheless, Stella always goes back to him because of the connection they have. It is a sickening connection that Stella does not wish to break.

Even when Stella is pregnant, Stanley continues to beat her. At the end of the book, he rapes Blanche, while Stella is giving birth. Before the repulsive act, Stanley says to Blanche softly, “Come to think of it–maybe you wouldn’t be bad to–interfere with…” (Williams Sc. 10, 161). He is an insensible monster. Stanley and Stella’s marriage is toxic because Stanley doesn’t respect Stella and the attraction between the two is not love.

A Streetcar Named Desire shows a sliver of Eunice and Steve’s marriage. It contains minor qualities of Stella and Stanley’s relationship. There is a scene where Eunice accuses Steve of cheating on her and she slaps him. She yells, “I seen you chasing her ‘round the balcony–I’m gonna call the vice squad!” (Williams Sc. 5, 86). He claims that he is innocent and the story never reveals to the audience whether Steve is lying or telling the truth. Eunice ends up surrendering to Steve, despite her prior beliefs. There is not enough information to tell if there is any love in this relationship, but there sure is no respect.

A Streetcar Named Desire and Their Eyes Were Watching God represent marriage in similar and different ways. They resemble each other because they both exhibit violence in hopeless marriages. They also express males as being the dominant, foreboding gender. They contrast each other because A Streetcar Named Desire does not show a single relationship that is prominent or honorable. Their Eyes Were Watching God tells of a marriage that actually functions: Janie and Tea Cake’s. These two stories reveal the secret to maintaining a prosperous marriage: reciprocated respect and limitless love.

Cite this paper

Marriage in A Streetcar Named Desire and Their Eyes Were Watching God. (2021, Jun 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/marriage-in-a-streetcar-named-desire-and-their-eyes-were-watching-god/



How did Blanche's husband death affect her?
Blanche's husband's death had a profound and lasting effect on her. She was devastated by his death and struggled to cope with her grief.
How is marriage presented in A Streetcar Named Desire?
In A Streetcar Named Desire, marriage is presented as an unhappy institution that can lead to domestic abuse.
Who is married in A Streetcar Named Desire?
Blanche DuBois is not married in A Streetcar Named Desire.
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