The oppressive expectations of society stand between Janie and her goal of self-actualization. Janie feels antagonized by many of the rules imposed upon her by others: Nanny’s insistence that she marry for money instead of love; Logan’s insistence that Janie help with farm labor; Jody’s cruelty and domination over Janie; Tea Cake’s insistence on beating Janie to assert some control. Janie knows that she is made to blossom like the flower she observed with the bee, but is often unsure what this sort of flourishing would look like in her own life.

When Janie surprises herself by killing Tea Cake out of self-preservation—the novel’s climax—she experiences her most obvious instance of self-reliance and strength. Despite her immense love for Tea Cake, it is not until Janie “kills” the expectations of others that she is truly freed to embrace herself.