John’s Lack of Self Awareness and its Affect on his Life and Preaching

In the novel ‘Jonah’s Gourd Vine’ (Hurston, 1933), main character John believes that he is a good person, a man of G-d even, despite hurting many people around him. His first fault began when he married a young girl named Lucy, and promised to be faithful. Over time, he cheated on her with multiple other women, and through it all, Lucy stayed true to him and remained at John’s side until her early death. Even though this marriage was very flawed and Lucy was unhappy, John spent the rest of his life after her death lamenting their marriage and wishing she would come back to him. He even went as far as to compare his second wife, Hattie, to Lucy, saying: “What you doin in Miss Lucy’s shoes” (p. 144) and continuing to explain that he never loved her and wished they hadn’t married. He beat Hattie many times until she left him. In addition, after Hattie divorced him, John pursued another marriage with a woman named Sally who he vowed to be faithful to, however he broke this vow the day of his passing.

Throughout all his sins, John continued to believe he was a good person and went on to become a preacher mid-way through the novel. His sins did not end because of this. As explained by article ‘The Worm Against the Word” (Ciuba, 2000), John fails as a preacher for one main reason: “He fails to give an adequate interpretation of himself because he fails to give an adequate interpretation of ‘signs, symbols, and texts'”. He sees things that happen to him or around him as not his fault; he thinks he is cursed or that G-d has it out for him, and never takes accountability for his actions. He takes his anger out on others, and hurts many people, believing that they had it coming or that it was his right to hurt them for some reason that he has justified to himself.

2 thoughts on “John’s Lack of Self Awareness and its Affect on his Life and Preaching

  1. I wonder if there is a psychological reason why John doesn’t hold himself accountable. I know with many characters, you could pinpoint the moment in the story when certain tendencies began. It would be interesting to see what moment that was for John.

  2. I definitely agree with what you are saying here. It seems like John has no remorse or maybe does not even realize that the way he is acts is hurting the people in his life. He treated Lucy so badly when they were together and it was not until after she had died that he started showing any signs that he felt guilty about the way that he treated her. The first time he beat his new wife Hattie, it said that he felt better, like he was paying off his debt for slapping Lucy by hurting Hattie. He felt better about himself after beating his new wife, like that somehow evened out that he slaps Lucy. He seems to have no real perspective on what it means to be a good person.

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