Monday, March 2, 2009

Hero Journey Archetypes (Blog 5)

The Hero Journey definitely plays a role in Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. The Archetypes reveal themselves in certain characters or objects in the story. The Hero in Hurston’s novel can be either Janie or Tea Cake, because both undergo a journey and learn along the way. I have decided to decipher the archetypes in Tea Cake’s Hero Journey. Tea Cake is the Hero, which is defined as a character who is meant “to serve and sacrifice”. He serves Janie, protects her, and sacrifices his life for her during the hurricane. As he lives life with Janie, he grows more and learns what true love really is.
Tea Cake’s mentor is his guitar. At one point he uses an imaginary guitar as a way to swoon Janie, “Tea Cake stood there mimicking the tuning of a guitar. He frowned and struggled with the pegs of his imaginary instrument watching her out of the corner of his eye with that secret joke playing over his face. Finally she smiled and he sung middle C, put his guitar under his arm and walked on back to where she was” (100). It allowed him to charm her and flirt with her. He sold his guitar to save up money to rent a car to bring her on a picnic, and it helped in that aspect. It guides him to Janie, and allows both to love each other. It gives Tea Cake reassurance, but then, during the hurricane he loses it, “Tea Cake had to throw his box away, and Janie saw how it hurt him” (161), and everything goes downhill from there. Tea Cake’s life ends shortly after having lost his mentor.
For Tea Cake, there are many Threshold Guardians, but there were four that stood out the most to me; one of which he wins, two of which he fails, and one of which he neither passed nor failed. First came the test of Nunkie, the girl who works in the fields with Janie and Tea Cake. She was added to Tea Cake’s journey to test his commitment to Janie, and it is hard to say whether he succeeded or failed, because we do not know his true intent. We are unsure of whether or not he was going to do anything, because Janie stopped the situation before anything happened. Next came the test of jealously, and this test Tea Cake failed. He becomes jealous of Mrs. Turner’s brother when he comes to town, and though Janie did absolutely nothing wrong, he castigates her, “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” (147). He let his fears of infidelity get the best of him, and his jealously of all the men’s yearnings for Janie. The hurricane was the next obstacle for Tea Cake. It was a trial of his commitment and love to Janie, and he succeeded. He protected her, carried her through the water when she did not have enough strength to swim on, and saved her from the rabid dog. He took a nasty bite from the dog to defend her, and he ended up getting rabies, which then leads to the last assessment. Sickness was the ordeal that led to Tea Cake’s demise. He can’t fight off the sickness, and it causes him to threaten Janie and then attempt to kill her with a revolver. He ends up dying in the end. He is purged of his sickness, but is not alive to witness it and live on.
The Herald in Tea Cake’s Hero Journey is the ball game. It may not happen in the beginning of the novel, but it occurs in the beginning of Tea Cake’s Hero Journey. Tea Cake walks into Janie’s store because he ended up going in the wrong direction, “Dat’s ‘cause Ah’m dumb. Ah got de thing all mixed up. Ah thought de game was gointuh be out at Hungerford. So Ah got uh rude tuh where dis road turns off form de Dixie Highway and walked over here and then Ah find out de game is in Winter Park” (95). He goes, what he thinks, is the wrong way, but it was actually the path leading to his calling. It led to the “significant change” in his life, which was about to be Janie. The issue was that he got mixed up and thought the game was in one town when it was really in another, but it lead him on the path of his discovery.
The Shapeshifter in Tea Cake’s Hero Journey is all other men. Mrs. Turner’s brother especially so, because he is the reason why Tea Cake to hit Janie. But it is men in general that leave doubts in Tea Cake’s mind, “A great deal of the old crowd were back. But there were lots of new ones too. Some of these men made passes at Janie, and women who didn’t know took out after Tea Cake. Didn’t take them long to be put right, however. Still and all, jealousies arose now and then on both sides” (147). The men, and women in Janie’s case, lead Tea Cake to question whether Janie really wants to be with him or not. They appear throughout the novel and Tea Cake tells Janie that there are many men out there who want to be in Tea Cake’s position and have Janie as a wife. All in all, Tea Cake is left with qualms because of the men throughout the novel and always looks for reassurance from Janie because of that.
I think we all know what the Shadow is in Tea Cake’s story: the rabid dog and the sickness it bestows on him. The dog brings about fear, and Tea Cake’s fear is losing Janie. The dog is extremely close to killing Janie but Tea Cake stopped it just in time, yet he got bitten as a result. The disease passed onto Tea Cake is foreshadowed, “Then Tea Cake finished him and sent him to the bottom to stay there. The cow relieved of a great weight was landing on the fill with Janie before Tea Cake stroked in and crawled weakly upon the fill again” (166). Tea Cake thrust the sickness deep inside of him and left it there to ignore it. He didn’t accept help (which also makes him a tragic hero!), and therefore the sickness grows inside him and consumes him. The cow is relieved of “a great weight”, which can be interpreted as the disease, and it was passed on to Tea Cake. The dog’s eyes also foreshadow death when Janie says, “…Ah don’t speck you seen his eyes lak Ah did. He didn’t aim tuh jus’ bite me…He aimed tuh kill me stone dead” (167). Death was seen in the dog’s eyes by Janie, and this foreshadows Tea Cake’s death, because he was ‘bit’ and soon after died. The Shadow is defined as a “…lurking within the Hero that must be accepted or purged”, and the disease is what needs to be purged, but unfortunately, it is immutable, and can only be taken away by Death.
Janie is the Trickster in Tea Cake’s Hero Journey, yet she is less of a sidekick and more of a partner or companion. She brings change into Tea Cake’s life and vice versa. One of the descriptions under “Trickster” is: “uses laughter to help the Hero see the absurdity of a situation”. There is a direct occurrence of this experience when Janie causes Tea Cake to laugh several time, one of them being the instance when they talk of whites and their relationships with blacks, “Janie said this and laughed and Tea Cake laughed with her. She calms Tea Cake down after he ranted about how whites treat blacks they know with respect, and all other blacks they don’t know like dirt. Janie is Tea Cake’s other half, and she disrupted his world and brought about change in his life in a wonderful way.
All things considered, Tea Cake can be identified as a Hero in Hurston’s novel because all of the archetypes appear in the story and directly relate to him and his journey.


  1. Krissy, I thought your post was very insightful,as I never considered Tea Cake's journey before!! My favorite part was when you discussed the guitar as his mentor. Objects as archetypes are always cool to think about; I never think about them because I always assume they're people.

  2. I loved reading this Krissy! If you consider what goal Tea Cake was working towards in his Hero Journey, it may complete the monomyth even more. Since you defined his hero-ship by the way he cares for and spends his life with Janie, one could say that Tea Cake crosses the threshold and endures the ordeal for love. That would also mean that Tea Cake's journey does not end with his death, but that he returns to the ordinary world with his knowledge (of true love) when his memory and the memories of their love visit Janie. She says, "Of course he wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she had finished feeling and thinking."

  3. truuuuuuuuuue that!
    i totally agree and thank you!