Janie’s dream has always been to travel to the horizon. For her, the horizon is a never-ending journey, her eternal quest for happiness. As her psyche and personality grow due to the hardships she
has endured, her voice also develops. In a way, her voice also reflects her own independence. The story is mainly broken up into three parts of her development. These three parts chronicle her change from childhood and her childish misconception of a true love until her eventual peace and self-understanding.
The beginning of her development is her first marriage to Logan Killicks, and her eventual desertion of him to what she thinks of as a better life. During the exposition, we see her being used by her grandmother as another chance at raising a child. After the rape of Janie’s mother, Nanny had to have another chance to raise a child correctly. This is where Janie’s search for independence started. As a child, she knew nothing other than to do what her grandmother told her, as she had no idea of independence, and the thought never crossed her mind that Nanny did not know what was best for her. This continued in her marriage with Logan Killicks. When their relationship starts Janie thinks that she has found the kind of life she has always wanted. Her childish mind thought that marriage meant love, and that Logan would take good care of her. But soon Logan reveals his expectations of her, and that he wants her to be basically an unpaid worker. This is the first time when we see Janie’s independence flare.
She does not want this kind of life for herself, and she immediately looks for a way out. The first opportunity that comes is a man called Joe Starks that seems like a good match for Janie. He promises her love and a comfortable life. She did not want to be married to a man who wanted her to “grab that ax and sling chips lak uh man………. help me move this pile of manure” page 26. As soon as she contemplates this, she decides that her life with Logan would be a melancholy and downtrodden experience. This is the first time that she voices her opinions and develops a little bit of that personality that pervades through the story. She talks back to Logan, suggesting, “S’posin’ Ah waz to run off and leave yuh sometime” page 30. “ Mah mamma didn’t tell me Ah wuz born in no hurry. So whut business Ah got rushin’ now? Anyhow dat ain’t whut youse mad about. You ain’t done me no favor by marrying me” page 31. She leaves that day for Joe.
The second part is her marriage to the ambitious entrepreneur, Joe. She is one of the most beautiful women that Joe has ever met, and he recognizes that. But instead of the love that Janie wants, he treats her like as a possession, a thing that he can show off and parade about. Nobody ever asks Janie what she wants. They all assume they know what’s best for her, and what she wants is what they want. So, Janie is always yearning for something. This strengthens her, and her voice and way of talking reflects that. She learns patience throughout her years with Joe. “She had learned how to talk some and leave some.” She learns that some things are better left alone, and might change with time. But she finally realizes some things, no matter how she wants them to change, will not change unless she makes them. She also realizes it is all right to talk back is she is being abused or being antagonized. “Naw, Ah ain’t no young gal no mo’ but Ah ain’t no old woman neither. Ah recon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah’m uh woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat’s uh whole lot more’n you kin say.” page 79. After years of abuse and duress under Joe, she finally breaks and realizes that sometimes harsh things need to be said to achieve what is right.
The last part of Janie’s development comes after Joe dies. Janie is rich and carefree. Tea Cake Woods is a tall enigmatic stranger that comes and transforms Janie’s life. He, unlike the others, recognizes a class in Janie that the others did not see present. He, unlike the others, has nothing to offer her but his love and promise to stay with her and take care of her. It is enough for Janie. Tea Cake opens a new door, where she does not need to be anything but herself. In this marriage, Janie finds the love she sought in other relationships. Tea Cake is a man who respects Janie as an intelligent, exciting companion.
By the end of her time with Tea Cake, Janie has become a woman who has experienced much and suffered much. Her words now hold power and influence. Pheoby says after listening to Janie’s story, “Lawd!…. Ah done growed ten feet higher jus’ listenin’ tuh you, Janie. Ah ain’t satisfied wid mahself no mo’ ” page 192.
Janie is a character that has always been used by everyone around her for their own ends. Throughout her life, her voice changes with her personalities and her added wisdom. She is completely defined by her actions, and her voice reflects that.