Female Identity In A Male Dominant Society English Literature Essay

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In her novel titled Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston portrays the protagonist, Janie, as a woman who strives to discover her own identity. Her novel "is a bold feminist novel" (Gates 197) and was not acknowledged until a later time when feminism was progressing and after the civil rights movement. Janie symbolizes attitudes of feminism when she takes action to rescue herself from each of three oppressive marriages. Janie comes to accept herself as an able-bodied woman through her marriages to Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake, who each represent different positions or conceptions of black life in America.

Janie connected with her first husband, Logan Killicks, through her grandmother (Nanny), a woman that had hopeless visions of black life and believed stability takes priority over true love and other worthlessness. Janie wonders whether or not it is conceivable to attain love, but ultimately accepts that she can only "[want] to want him sometimes," (Hurston 23) furnishing the reader an increasing impression that Janie will never be fulfilled with Logan and the life that he personifies.

Logan Killicks did not expect to have Janie as an equal partner, he intended for her to be his helping hand in the field. An example of his intentions develops when Logan travels to Lake City to buy a second mule that Janie can use to plow the fields. He is planning to use Janie to increase his profits. Janie declines to work at his command, saying it is not her place to do so. He tells her, " …

Students Paper:

… tells her, "You ain't got no particular place. It's wherever Ah need yuh" (Hurston 31 …

http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/gender-quotes.html

… in mine." "You ain't got no particular place. It's wherever Ah need yuh. Git uh …

… " (Hurston 31).

Janie suffered in this marriage to Logan. She sensed she was losing her independence as well as her identity. Janie was not herself any longer she was now Mrs. Logan Killicks, and she felt obliged to do what he required. Early into this marriage, Janie has had enough, and when the opportunity to go away with a suave, charming man, she takes the chance.

Janie left Logan by escaping away with Joe Starks, who assures her of a different style of living. He states, "Janie, if you think Ah aims to tole you off and make a dog outa you, youse wrong. Ah wants to make a wife outa you" (Hurston 29). Therefore, she decides to leave with him in hopes of becoming a wife rather than being a field hand with Logan.

At the start of her marriage with Joe, she felt admired, something she never felt while she had been with Logan. Janie was hopeful about her marriage to Joe. However,she knew he truly was not the man of her vision. Very early in Janie's marriage to Joe, she notices that "Joe Starks does not dominate Janie by forcing her to labor (as Logan does), but by turning her into a thing, transforming her into his commodity" (McGowan 113), which establishes a new superiority. He does this by forbidding her to speak freely, commanding her to wear her long hair up and banning her to mingle on the store's porch.

Joe also controls Janie through feats of physical as well as verbal abuse. An example of physical abuse Janie sustains transpires when the dinner she cooks for Joe does not turn out correctly:

…

Students Paper:

… out correctly:

So when the bread didn't rise, and the fish wasn't quite done at the bone, and the rice was scorched, he slapped Janie until she had a ringing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store. (Hurston 72 …

http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/gender-quotes.html

… other things. So when the bread didn't rise, and the fish wasn't quite done at the bone, and the rice was scorched, he slapped Janie until she had a ringing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store. (6.185)

Many …

… . (Hurston 72)

Janie acknowledges to this abuse by retreating into herself; "[s]he had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them" (Hurston 72). This is Janie's only protective system to keep her thought of self worth and to stop Joe from damaging it.

Later in the story, she fights back against one of Joe's encounters of verbal abuse. In front of everyone in the store, Joe humiliates Janie by offending her glamour and sexual appeal. Janie attacks back with her own words:

…

Students Paper:

… own words:

Naw, Ah ain't no young gal no mo' but den Ah ain't no old woma

neither …

http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/gender-quotes.html

… she is old]: "Naw, Ah ain't no young gal no mo' but den Ah ain't no old woman neither …

… woma

…

Students Paper:

… old woma

neither. Ah Reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah'm uh woman every

inch of me, and Ah Know it. Dat's uh whole lot more'n you kin say. You

big-bellies round here and Put out a lot of brag, but `tain't nothin' to it but

yo' big voice. Humph! Talkin `bout me lookin' old! When you pull down

yo' britches, you look lak de change Uh life. (Hurston 79 …

http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/gender-quotes.html

… ain't no old woman neither. Ah reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah'm uh woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat's uh whole lot more'n you kin say. You big-bellies round here and put out a lot of brag, but 'tain't nothin' to it but yo' big voice. Humph! Talkin' 'bout me lookin' old! When you pull down yo' britches, you look lak de change uh life." (7.22)

Both …

… . (Hurston 79)

Janie's reply back to him was a blow to his ego. "So he struck Janie with all his might

and drove her from the store" (Hurston 80).

In this case, Janie in a roundabout way sets Joe's death in motion. He no longer verbally abuses her because she strips him of the one thing that is most critical to him, his power. After the episode, she sees him get sicker and sicker, until he was incapacitated. Janie overpowers Joe by conversing with him at his sick bed. She tells him of his inadequacy as a husband, and he dies while she is in the room. After Janie finally resists Joe's domination and speaks up her newfound voice comes to life.

Even with all the abolition that Janie endured in her marriage to Joe, Janie stayed with him until his demise. Janie was not overwrought over his death. Janie stated, pertaining to the passing of Joe "Ah jus' loves dis freedom" (Hurston 93). Janie was all too delighted to be free of the restraints placed on her by Joe; Janie went home and swiftly burned her head rags, the very symbol of Joe's restrictions on her.

Janie's next marriage involves Vergible "Tea Cake" Woods. "Like Joe, Tea Cake appears, in the first instance, to be a purely liberating force in Janie's life" (McGowan 117) and he does this by respecting her as an equal. An example of this is when Tea Cake first meets Janie he teaches her to play checkers. While he is showing Janie the rules of the game, Janie has ". …

Students Paper:

… Janie has ". found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play" (Hurston 95 …

http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/gender-quotes.html

… and she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play. That was …

… " (Hurston 95-6). At this point, Janie receives encouragement from a man for the first time and suitably, ends up marrying him later in the story. Another example of Tea Cake freeing Janie occurs when he shows her how to shoot a gun and how to hunt. The irony of this deed is that she subsequently becomes a better shot than Tea Cake himself, which later comes back to plague him. Janie now capable of putting food on the table for them by shooting game was highly unheard of during this era. Primarily, the man was the main breadwinner in the home. "In this liberation, however, just as in Joe's liberation, there is also a reverse side, a side of domination. This domination appears most explicitly in Tea Cake's jealousy and subsequent abuse of Janie" (McGowan 118).

Tea Cake displays his first evidence of jealousy when he begins to leave work in the middle of the day and checkup on Janie. She asks him about his rational one day, and he tells her he is afraid that "[d]e boogerman liable tuh tote yuh off whilst Ah'm gone" (Hurston 132). Janie does not believe him and confronts him about it. She states, "Tain't no boogerman got me tuh study `bout. Maybe you think Ah ain't treatin' yuh right and you watchin' me" (Hurston 133). He quickly convinces Janie that her idea is wrong and alleges that he desires her too much during the day while he is at work, so she will have to accompany him and labor next to him in the fields.

Later in the novel, Tea Cake validates his jealousy through physical abuse. When Mrs. Turner brings over her brother to introduce him to Janie, Tea Cake reciprocates in his own way:

. [H]e …

Students Paper:

… H]e had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his

jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss. (Hurston 147 …

http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/gender-quotes.html

… was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss. (17.1)

In …

… . (Hurston 147)

A rabid dog bites Tea Cake while he tries to prohibit it from biting Janie. Days later, he starts to become delirious with Rabies progressing its way through his body. Tea Cake gets so sick that he becomes crazy. He obliquely accuses Janie of being unfaithful and pulls a pistol on her. Janie anticipates a situation comparable to this earlier in the day and draws a shotgun on him in return. When Janie conceives that Tea Cake is going to kill her, she protects herself and shoots him before he has an opportunity to shoot her. This is a compelling incident in the novel because, again, Janie takes control and ends an oppressive relationship on her own terms. Janie does not end the marriage by entering another, she simply remains free. Janie realizes she does not need Tea Cake in order to live she only needs herself.

In Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God Janie's journey to her own identity was a struggle. One filled with determination and self-development. Through her marriages to Logan, Joe, and Tea Cake, Janie has hopes to have her own identity separate from anyone else. Her marriages throughout the novel emphasize what can occur in a male dominated society. Janie had learned from her encounters when she decides that there are "[t]wo …

Students Paper:

… t]wo things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin'fuh theyselves …

http://courses.essex.ac.uk/lt/lt203/LT203%20Hurston%20Their%20Eyes%20lecture%20quotes.doc

… yuh. Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh …

… livin'fuh theyselves"(Hurston 192). Janie, with her killing of Tea Cake, has learned how to do exactly this. She now lives for herself only, dressing in overalls, not regarding what others think. Janie has in aspect freed herself from the dominating restraints she had previously experienced in a patriarchal world. Her liberation and self-empowerment will encourage other women, making Their Eyes Were Watching God a compelling feminist piece.

Davison6

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Master document text

Debbie Davison

Wiggins

04 December 2010

Female Identity in a Male Dominant Society

In her novel titled Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston portrays the protagonist, Janie, as a woman who strives to discover her own identity. Her novel "is a bold feminist novel" (Gates 197) and was not acknowledged until a later time when feminism was progressing and after the civil rights movement. Janie symbolizes attitudes of feminism when she takes action to rescue herself from each of three oppressive marriages. Janie comes to accept herself as an able-bodied woman through her marriages to Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Tea Cake, who each represent different positions or conceptions of black life in America.

Janie connected with her first husband, Logan Killicks, through her grandmother (Nanny), a woman that had hopeless visions of black life and believed stability takes priority over true love and other worthlessness. Janie wonders whether or not it is conceivable to attain love, but ultimately accepts that she can only "[want] to want him sometimes," (Hurston 23) furnishing the reader an increasing impression that Janie will never be fulfilled with Logan and the life that he personifies.

Logan Killicks did not expect to have Janie as an equal partner, he intended for her to be his helping hand in the field. An example of his intentions develops when Logan travels to Lake City to buy a second mule that Janie can use to plow the fields. He is planning to use Janie to increase his profits. Janie declines to work at his command, saying it is not her place to do so. He tells her, "You ain't got no particular place. It's wherever Ah need yuh" (Hurston 31).

Janie suffered in this marriage to Logan. She sensed she was losing her independence as well as her identity. Janie was not herself any longer she was now Mrs. Logan Killicks, and she felt obliged to do what he required. Early into this marriage, Janie has had enough, and when the opportunity to go away with a suave, charming man, she takes the chance.

Janie left Logan by escaping away with Joe Starks, who assures her of a different style of living. He states, "Janie, if you think Ah aims to tole you off and make a dog outa you, youse wrong. Ah wants to make a wife outa you" (Hurston 29). Therefore, she decides to leave with him in hopes of becoming a wife rather than being a field hand with Logan.

At the start of her marriage with Joe, she felt admired, something she never felt while she had been with Logan. Janie was hopeful about her marriage to Joe. However,she knew he truly was not the man of her vision. Very early in Janie's marriage to Joe, she notices that "Joe Starks does not dominate Janie by forcing her to labor (as Logan does), but by turning her into a thing, transforming her into his commodity" (McGowan 113), which establishes a new superiority. He does this by forbidding her to speak freely, commanding her to wear her long hair up and banning her to mingle on the store's porch.

Joe also controls Janie through feats of physical as well as verbal abuse. An example of physical abuse Janie sustains transpires when the dinner she cooks for Joe does not turn out correctly:

So when the bread didn't rise, and the fish wasn't quite done at the bone, and the rice was scorched, he slapped Janie until she had a ringing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store. (Hurston 72)

Janie acknowledges to this abuse by retreating into herself; "[s]he had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them" (Hurston 72). This is Janie's only protective system to keep her thought of self worth and to stop Joe from damaging it.

Later in the story, she fights back against one of Joe's encounters of verbal abuse. In front of everyone in the store, Joe humiliates Janie by offending her glamour and sexual appeal. Janie attacks back with her own words:

Naw, Ah ain't no young gal no mo' but den Ah ain't no old woma

neither. Ah Reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah'm uh woman every

inch of me, and Ah Know it. Dat's uh whole lot more'n you kin say. You

big-bellies round here and Put out a lot of brag, but `tain't nothin' to it but

yo' big voice. Humph! Talkin `bout me lookin' old! When you pull down

yo' britches, you look lak de change Uh life. (Hurston 79)

Janie's reply back to him was a blow to his ego. "So he struck Janie with all his might

and drove her from the store" (Hurston 80).

In this case, Janie in a roundabout way sets Joe's death in motion. He no longer verbally abuses her because she strips him of the one thing that is most critical to him, his power. After the episode, she sees him get sicker and sicker, until he was incapacitated. Janie overpowers Joe by conversing with him at his sick bed. She tells him of his inadequacy as a husband, and he dies while she is in the room. After Janie finally resists Joe's domination and speaks up her newfound voice comes to life.

Even with all the abolition that Janie endured in her marriage to Joe, Janie stayed with him until his demise. Janie was not overwrought over his death. Janie stated, pertaining to the passing of Joe "Ah jus' loves dis freedom" (Hurston 93). Janie was all too delighted to be free of the restraints placed on her by Joe; Janie went home and swiftly burned her head rags, the very symbol of Joe's restrictions on her.

Janie's next marriage involves Vergible "Tea Cake" Woods. "Like Joe, Tea Cake appears, in the first instance, to be a purely liberating force in Janie's life" (McGowan 117) and he does this by respecting her as an equal. An example of this is when Tea Cake first meets Janie he teaches her to play checkers. While he is showing Janie the rules of the game, Janie has ". found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play" (Hurston 95-6). At this point, Janie receives encouragement from a man for the first time and suitably, ends up marrying him later in the story. Another example of Tea Cake freeing Janie occurs when he shows her how to shoot a gun and how to hunt. The irony of this deed is that she subsequently becomes a better shot than Tea Cake himself, which later comes back to plague him. Janie now capable of putting food on the table for them by shooting game was highly unheard of during this era. Primarily, the man was the main breadwinner in the home. "In this liberation, however, just as in Joe's liberation, there is also a reverse side, a side of domination. This domination appears most explicitly in Tea Cake's jealousy and subsequent abuse of Janie" (McGowan 118).

Tea Cake displays his first evidence of jealousy when he begins to leave work in the middle of the day and checkup on Janie. She asks him about his rational one day, and he tells her he is afraid that "[d]e boogerman liable tuh tote yuh off whilst Ah'm gone" (Hurston 132). Janie does not believe him and confronts him about it. She states, "Tain't no boogerman got me tuh study `bout. Maybe you think Ah ain't treatin' yuh right and you watchin' me" (Hurston 133). He quickly convinces Janie that her idea is wrong and alleges that he desires her too much during the day while he is at work, so she will have to accompany him and labor next to him in the fields.

Later in the novel, Tea Cake validates his jealousy through physical abuse. When Mrs. Turner brings over her brother to introduce him to Janie, Tea Cake reciprocates in his own way:

. [H]e had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his

jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss. (Hurston 147)

A rabid dog bites Tea Cake while he tries to prohibit it from biting Janie. Days later, he starts to become delirious with Rabies progressing its way through his body. Tea Cake gets so sick that he becomes crazy. He obliquely accuses Janie of being unfaithful and pulls a pistol on her. Janie anticipates a situation comparable to this earlier in the day and draws a shotgun on him in return. When Janie conceives that Tea Cake is going to kill her, she protects herself and shoots him before he has an opportunity to shoot her. This is a compelling incident in the novel because, again, Janie takes control and ends an oppressive relationship on her own terms. Janie does not end the marriage by entering another, she simply remains free. Janie realizes she does not need Tea Cake in order to live she only needs herself.

In Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God Janie's journey to her own identity was a struggle. One filled with determination and self-development. Through her marriages to Logan, Joe, and Tea Cake, Janie has hopes to have her own identity separate from anyone else. Her marriages throughout the novel emphasize what can occur in a male dominated society. Janie had learned from her encounters when she decides that there are "[t]wo things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin'fuh theyselves"(Hurston 192). Janie, with her killing of Tea Cake, has learned how to do exactly this. She now lives for herself only, dressing in overalls, not regarding what others think. Janie has in aspect freed herself from the dominating restraints she had previously experienced in a patriarchal world. Her liberation and self-empowerment will encourage other women, making Their Eyes Were Watching God a compelling feminist piece.

Davison6

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