In Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie Crawford is a suppressed woman with high hopes and dreams and only in the face of death is she able to break through and emerge stronger than ever. In the middle of the novel, Janie undergoes a rebirth. Her husband Joe dies and with him goes all memories of the "old" Janie, one that reluctantly conformed to the traditional housewife role. What emerges, is a strong, determined black woman, no longer hiding her beauty and this new Janie pursues her once lost dreams. Janie then reaches the climax of her new life when she is willing to die just to be with her husband, Tea Cake, in a violent storm. Her hopes have finally been fulfilled and she could want nothing more. The development of Janie as a character is remarkable as seen by her ability to triumph in the face of death.
Joe Starks first came into Janie's life when she was just an innocent young woman with all sorts of hopes and dreams. To Janie, he represented these dreams and was her opportunity to fulfill them. However, what Janie did not foresee is that Joe took her away from that life she hated with Logan Killicks and led her into that same life with him. For years and years Janie is suppressed and is unable to be the person she wishes to be. All those hopes and dreams that Joe once represented faded back to the horizon which nearly disappeared from sight. As long as Janie is with Joe, she can never live the life she had once hoped for. During these long years with Joe, Janie, on the outside, is lifeless, living a monotonous daily routine while inside her there still burns a small flame of hope.
Joe's death marks a significant moment in Janie's life and development as a character. Gone with Joe is everything he represented. Janie is no longer suppressed and finally has the opportunity to be free and pursue her hopes and dreams. What emerges at Joe's funeral is a new Janie.