Examining Love and Marriage through Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Canterbury Tales
Though they were written centuries apart, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God share some important insights into the nature of romantic love. In particular, these stories portray the complicated nature of love and marriage in a women’s life. While characters like Hurston’s Janie Crawford and the Wife of Bath desire romance, they also struggle with the constraints that marriage often places on women. The Wife of Bath claims in her prologue that she wishes to have complete control over her husbands, but the theme of her tale seems to expose her desire for romantic love, as well as a (perhaps unconscious) belief that women must submit to the will of their husbands in order to be happy. The role that submission plays in the lives of women is explored in depth in Hurston’s novel, and the protagonist Janie is forced to put aside her own thoughts and desires in order to properly play the role of wife. However, Janie and Teacake’s marriage as well the relationship featured in The Franklin’s Tale showcase relationships in which these issues of autonomy and self actualization, while still somewhat present, are mostly mitigated by a focus on genuine love and connection as well as some form of mutual equality between lovers. This presentation seeks to explore the complex relationship between love and self-actualization, understanding that marriage can often hinder a woman’s autonomy while also acknowledging the important role that romantic connections play in self-fulfillment.