The book Their Eyes Were Watching God follows the story of Janie Crawford. It is a story not only of the main characters search for individuality, but her search for a voice of her own, and an escape from patriarchal figures of her time. Because she lives in male dominated society, her voice is often shunned and not accepted, yet she finds way of somehow evade the thinking of such a society and somehow make her voice be heard. Voice is a tool, rhetorical and literary, and is in itself very powerful.
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“It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skinsâ€¦..They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.” (Neale Hurston 29-30) Hurston employs the folkloric symbol of the mule to reveal the ways in which the African-American people can be dehumanized and silenced by society. People are compared to animals, mules, which are considered the brutes of all animals. The workers, had always been tongue less, never had a chance to speak their own mind, and therefore they had no voice and won’t if they continue to be treated the way they are. “Hurston, as an informing narrative consciousness, uses interiority in Their Eyes to characterize those who are silent and lack their own voices, as well as to add dimension to those with voices.” (Racine 283) Racine expresses how Hurston decided to write about how some people did possess a voice, while others were deprived from it, and were not allowed to express who they truly were. This is proven, as in the story, Janie’s grandmother was born during slavery, black people or African Americans, did not possess any voice at all, her grandmother always wanted to make a great speech, but no one would listen, and even though she made Janie marry too young, she had always wanted Janie to be able to speak and have people listen. Yet it is not so easy, as when the town of Eatonville asks Janie to make a speech, Joe, her husband says that because she is a woman she doesn’t know anything about making speeches and doesn’t allow her to speak silencing her voice. By doing so, all her admirations and hopes are crumbled down by the stubbornness of one man.
“The years took all the fight out of Janie’s face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul. No matter what Jody did, she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave some. She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels.” (Neale Hurston 108). This is another example of voice, as Janie is unable to communicate and feels isolated, she sees herself as the “rut in the road.”. All the life she had aspired for had been taken from her and hidden, she could not see it, nor experience it. Her marriage worsens and worsens, and she speaks less and less every time.
Another phrase that represents the ideals of having a voice is shown on chapter 8 of the book, “She thought back and forth about what had happened in the making of a voice out of a man.” (Neale Hurston 119). Joe thinks he has become a big voice, and therefore he thinks that makes him important, but he concentrates so much on that voice that he forgets others have voices as well, and therefore he loses everything he has, including his heart and humanity. Joe was a man, a man in which Janie had found a husband, but his voice became crumbled and blasphemy, and the voice that had one characterized him was the one that took from him all that was good.
We have all felt repressed at some stage during our lives, as if we are not able to speak or to be listened, but in the end, we find who we are and the voice we have and share with others. We all find that one moment in which we achieve victory over oppression and in the book Janie finally finds it at the end, with her voice being free and able to represent who she is. Our voice makes us and what we do with it will impact what we might become in the future.
Works Cited Page
Neale Hurston, Zora. Their Eyes Were Watching God. J.B. Lippincott, 1937. Print.
Racine, Maria J. . “African American Review.” Trans. Array1994. 283. Print.
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