Janie Crawford, the central protagonist of the text, is determined to find her true love and establish her identity as she falls in love with different men at different points of her life. The experience had not been an easy one for Janie. She had to move from town to town, from one failed marriage into another within the confines of a conservative society. She was a non-believer in the traditional marriage system. In her opinion, love can happen only in a true union between men and women. She defied the conventional orders and wanted to assert her individual liberty. She braved the odds of the society against the ceaseless odds, insinuations, insults and judgment and perceived each of her marriage experiences as the harbor where she could anchor her dream of love, happiness, and equality. It is only in her marriage to her third husband, Tea Cake, that she finds her long-coveted freedom and happiness. The novel opens with the descriptive narration of the differences between a man’s and a woman’s desire. The narrator has poignantly pointed out the position of men in society as they reign under the patriarchal hegemony. It is the power play between genders that will largely determine Janie’s success on her quest of true love. Men need not dream because they can have what they desire without undergoing the pain and pleasure of dreaming. Unlike women, men are the masters of their fate, while the fairer sex must hold on to the fleeting pleasures of dream to derive a pseudo-satisfaction of all that they cannot have in their living experience. Black women had no independence of their own. Hence, they held on their dreams. “Dream is the truth” for women as they can achieve their desire only after an arduous struggle. “Women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly” (Hurston 1).
In the light of this context, it is to be noted that idea of “dream” has rendered a different paradigm to this novel as Janie ventures on to dream an ideal life and love. It is her dream and desires to find a true love and liberty that becomes the guiding motivation of her quest. Janie’s community perceives love and marriage as an important segment of a woman’s life that completes her role as a woman. It need not have an emotional attachment. Women must not harbor ambition. It could prove fatal to her social existence. She must survive on the simplest dream and fulfill the subservient roles to her husband. Her roles are confined to her domestic duties as she would run daily chores and look after the children.