Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in relation to Janie’s three marriages

Human needs often play crucial role in the life of people and they determine actions by their needs. As a rule, people attempt to match their needs and satisfy their desires to feel happiness and satisfaction with their life. However, in course of life human needs are changing and evolving. Moreover, needs become more and more complex and, thus, more and more difficult to meet. In this respect, Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs which mirror the progress of needs of people in the course of their personal development, starting from the lowest level of physical needs to the top level of self-actualization. Maslow stood on the ground that human needs are vulnerable to changes and normally they progress and people always develop and extend their needs to reach the possibly higher level in the hierarchy of needs developed by Maslow. To prove this fact, it is possible to refer to Z.N. Hurston’s novel “There Eyes Were Watching God”. The main character of the novel, Janie, passes through several levels of the hierarchy of needs and the more mature she grows the higher level she reaches.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

The major accomplishment of Abraham Maslow is the development of the hierarchy of human needs. In fact, unlike his predecessors, Maslow systematized and structured human needs. Basically, his hierarchy of human needs include five major elements: 1) physical, 2) safety, 3) belongingness and love, 4) esteem, and 5) self-actualization (Wahba & Bridwell, 218). All these elements of the hierarchy are extremely important to each individual and they define the life and behavior of people. In fact, this hierarchy is strictly structure since the significance of needs increases steadily from physical up to self-actualization. Maslow developed the idea that physical needs and needs of safety are basic needs that lie at the bottom of the pyramid of the needs’ hierarchy. At the same time, the physical needs are vitally important since they create the foundation for the physical existence of human beings for they need to eat, drink, sleep, etc. to survive. The safety needs are also important because they are closely interrelated with the survival of an individual in a hostile environment.

In actuality, physical and safety needs are primitive, basic needs. The following three categories of needs occupy consistently more important place in the hierarchy and are more meaningful for human on the social level. For instance, the belongingness and love needs imply the need of an individual in the participation or belongingness to some social group, such as family, group of friends, colleagues, etc.

On the basis of the relationship with other people individuals shape their esteem, which comprises individuals’ self-esteem, confidence, achievements, respect of others, etc. In such a way, the esteem shapes the significance of an individual for the society and his self-perception. As a result, self-actualization of an individual accomplishes the hierarchy of needs created by Maslow. The need in self-actualization implies mainly moral needs of an individual, the need to realize individual’s potential, creativity, etc. (Cooke et al, 134). In such a way, in course of their development people can go through primitive stages of physical needs toward self-actualization as the top level in human needs.

Janie’s needs evolution

Janie, the main character of the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, undergoes consistent changes in the course of her life and her needs changes respectively to the change of her environment and her position in the society. At the beginning of her life, she is a defenseless, inexperienced girl, who is forced to marry Logan Killicks because her grandmother insists on the marriage. Janie is not aware of consequences of her marriage. Her needs may be limited to primitive needs: physical needs and the need of safety. She is just beginning her life and she does not even know what love is. When she was sixteen her sexuality had started to evoke new feelings and emotions, but the marriage with Logan Killicks deprived her of the possibility to fall in love. Logan needed a good housewife, an assistant, while Janie needed the satisfaction of her physical needs, including her sexual needs and she needed to feel safe, being protected from the dangers she could encounter in the outside world. The need of safety was very strong, taking into consideration the tragic experience of her mother, whom Janie hardly knew. In fact, she had just basic physical desires but her consciousness was not fully shaped and her needs remained primitive.

However, as the girl grew older, her needs evolved and, when she became an adult woman, her needs are changing. In fact, she starts looking for something more significant than satisfaction of her basic physical needs. She needs to feel belongingness to a true family, where two persons, the husband and the wife, are supportive and form the solid unit ”“ family. Moreover, she wants a true love. Her position of a housewife does not satisfy her anymore. This is why she escapes with Jody Starks, whom she believe to be able to give her love and care she needed so much. In such a way, she reaches the next level according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ”“ the level of love/belongingness.

Nevertheless, gradually, Janie understands that Jody Stark cannot satisfy her new needs which complemented the need of love and belongingness. Being a part of the family is not enough for Janie anymore. She wants to play the role she deserved to in the social life, while Jody excludes her from the social life limiting her life to their household. In such a way, she steadily arrives to the next stage of needs ”“ the stage of esteem. It is her third husband, Tea Cake, that helps her to satisfy her new needs. Janie wants not only love and family, but she wants the recognition of people living in their neighborhood. She wants to be meaningful and her new social status after the death of Jody helps her to gain the recognition of people but it is only with Tea Cake she is happy and feels satisfied.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that people change their needs in the course of their life. At the same time, human needs can vary consistently but, as a rule, their needs grow more and more complex. In this respect, Maslow’s findings are very important. Basically, Abraham Maslow defined the basic human needs which he structured in his hierarchy, including such needs physical, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization. These needs identified by the researcher can help better understand the needs of employees. In such a way, managers can use this information to increase the effectiveness of their management applying methods and approaches that meet the needs of employees and, therefore, stimulate them work better, i.e. more efficiently and productively. In this respect, it is obvious that efficiency and productivity of employee’s performance is one of the major goals of any organizations and, at the same time, it is the most effective way to improve the performance of the entire organization and improve its competitive position. The main character of “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Janie, reveals the evolution of her needs from primitive physical needs and the need of safety in the first marriage to love/belongingness in her second marriage and, finally, her needs reach the level of esteem in her third marriage.

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