Addressing Race, Class, and Gender in their Eyes were Watching God
I suggest that it is clear to identify the stereotype within the fictional novel Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neal Hurston. This coming-of-age story illustrates how African American women were being discriminated against the society from the White people who have the authority of control. The misrepresentation of stereotype leads to the loss of self-identity that occurs to the protagonist Janie Mae Crawford throughout the story in which her marital partners and the people from the town attempts to silence her identity from defining herself. I suggest that the author tries to give the stereotyped perspective by preventing her to reach her selfhood through the motives from her grandmother Nanny Crawford, her first husband Logan Killicks and her second husband Jody Starks to disapprove her feelings and obscures her path towards the horizon. They have the stereotype that typically defines the African American women as lacking power in which they have no ability to express themselves. From the people’s perspective on considering the African American women have lower social status, it demonstrates the idea of how they were being excluded from the society as they were considered the servants of the White people where White people hold the power to have control over them. The society has misplaced the social status of the African American women that underestimate their identity as the minority who cannot define themselves.
First of all, I suggest that how Nanny as Janie’s grandmother who had experienced and witnessed how the White people control the Black people in which they have lost their representation within the society. From chapter two when Nanny tells Janie about the ideology of how the White people hold the majority of power among the African American people, she tries to pass on the concept that the White people have control over the Black people and they can only be obedience under the White people’s power by saying, “Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he didn’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. Do nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see” (Hurston 14). This quote from the elderly that had passed down to the younger generation of describing the Black people’s situation had disappeared under the White people’s control in which they had no chance to rebel in order to defend themselves. The use of words such as “white man”, “ruler”, “black man” and “nothing” illustrates how the African Americans were telling their people about how the White men take the full control while they have no ability to resist because they have lack of power to do so. Living under the White people’s authority for the Black people, they have no ability to present themselves in society because they were considered to be powerless in defining their social status.
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Next, I also suggest that Nanny continuously influence Janie to think about the goodness of marrying the man in which she will betide to marriage boundary that she loses the ability to make her own choice. From chapter nine Janie did not approve Nanny’s marriage arrangement for her with Logan Killicks and her dream of love and happiness was destroyed by the arrangement. Nanny still tries to influence Janie about attaining the security with her practical advice while it completely kills Janie’s spirit and voice. “Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon … and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her” (Hurston 89). This quote of arranging marriage from unwillingness had caused the minority to lose their ability to pursue their own happiness. The use of words such as “tie”, “tight” and “choke” illustrates the negative effects of how arranging the unwilling marriage had taken away the African American women’s ability and their freedom to pursue their own dream. Being tied to marriage as for the women, they have no ability to express their voice for their position within the household because their purpose has become to only to serve their husband that they were not allowed to make complain.
Moreover, I further suggest that Logan had placed Janie in a lower position within the society and the household. From chapter four when Janie had her breakfast almost done and Logan roared from the barn. It is identical that both of them had a different view on the gender roles in the marriage should be equivalent in which she thinks men should be working outdoors while women look after the house, but he thinks that women should always follow the men’s will and serve whenever they need. It is clear that Janie had no identical role as a woman beside of what Logan puts her from the conversation. “Janie!” Logan called harshly. “Come help me move dis manure pile befo’ de sun gits hot. You don’t take a bit of interest in dis place. ’Tain’t no use in foolin’ round in dat kitchen all day long.”…“You don’t need mah help out dere, Logan. Youse in yo’ place and Ah’m in mine.” “You ain’t got no particular place. It’s wherever Ah need yuh. Git uh move on yuh, and dat quick” (Hurston 31). This quote between the conversation of a White man and an African American woman in which the underestimate of women’s reputation and consider them as an attachment under the White people’s authority that defines them to be voiceless within the society. The use of words such as “no particular place” and “wherever Ah need yuh” illustrates how the White people think about the representation of the African American women in which their purpose of life is to follow their demand without rejection. As being an African American woman who is married to the White man, there is no allowance for her to present herself and to further define her position as equivalent to her husband in both the society and the household.
In addition, I suggest that how Logan thinks about African American women have no reputation in which their only job is to be obedience to the men’s demand. From chapter four Logan thinks that the African American women cannot gain respect or better treatment from men. Instead, they should be happy to do whatever their husband tells them to without complaining. From his point of view if Janie requests for anything better, Logan thinks that she is assuming for great airs by saying, “Ah thought you would ’preciate good treatment. Thought Ah’d take and make somethin’ outa yuh. You think youse white folks by de way you act” (Hurston 30). This quote defines how African American women should be thankful for how the White men had treated them the way they see them. The use of words such as “appreciate” and “good treatment” illustrates the White man’s assumption of how the African American women should be thankful regardless of how they were being treated from their husband. The women should be willing to accept their husband’s treatment in which they should also obey their demand as the appreciation instead of rejection.
Furthermore, I also suggest that Logan had already placed the African American women’s position in which they have low social status. From chapter four Logan eventually looks down on Janie for being a servant of the White people for her entire life. He considers her as coming from a lower social class and thinks that she does not deserve the right of independence or to have her own choice by saying, “Considerin’ youse born in a carriage ’thout no top to it, and yo’ mama and you bein’ born and raised in de white folks back-yard” (Hurston 30). This quote of the Black people’s position for serving the White people in which they had already lost their own identity demonstrates how they can only rely on the White people for their entire life that they do not have their own voice. The use of words such as “born in a carriage”, “born and raised” and “white folks back-yard” illustrates the African American women had been living under the White men’s influence in which they have to rely on them in order to live in the society. Because of the White people’s stereotype of thinking about the Black people in which they live their life as servants that their purpose is to serve for them, they do not have the ability to make their own voice.
Last of all, I further suggest that Jody had forced Janie to avoid her to speak for herself in public in which the women cannot have their voice to be heard. From chapter five during a street lamp ceremony when Tony Taylor asks Janie to speak but Jody refuses to let her. Jody demands his control towards Janie on the idea of how a wife should behave and be identified as lack of power as well as the women’s role in society by telling Tony that “Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no speech-making’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home” (Hurston 43). This quote of how the White men would consider the role of wife within the household as they are not allowed to make their own voice and they should behave as being obedience to their husband. The use of words such as “don’t know nothin’” and “‘bout no speech-making” illustrates how the White people perceive the African American women’s reputation in which they have lack of knowledge and they also have no ability make their own voice to the public. The White people have prevented the African American women to have the ability to make their own voice to be heard after being married because their only purpose as wives is to serve their husband according to their needs.
All in all, the misrepresentation of how the White people perceive the reputation of the Black people through their discrimination in which Hurston had successfully illustrated the social status of the African American women within the society in which their reputation had become voiceless through how Janie was being told by Nanny and being treated by her husband Logan and Jody in her novel. The White people have weakened the Black people’s voice and their reputation within the society under the White people’s supremacy because they think that the Black people should not make their own voice in public and be obedience to fulfill the White people’s demand. The significance that Hurston tries to provide the perspective in which the African American women’s social status had become misrepresented in the society because they are considered to be under the control of White people’s power and had no ability to make their voice to be heard by the public. It is also important to present the stereotype in which the women had no power and were forced to not make their own voice because it demonstrates how their reputation was considered to be unimportant under the authority of the White people’s power.