Women in Novel of Zora Neale Hurston

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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“In society, women are taught from childhood to dream of marriage and to make being married one of their major goals in life. They are encouraged to strive for a man who is financially stable and can take care of them. In Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston, readers see Janie, the protagonist, navigate through three marriages as she strives towards her desire for marriage which society had embedded in her. Janie’s first marriage was arranged by her Grandmother with the intent of him providing her financial security.

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Logan spent the first year of their marriage pampering Janie then he tries to make her help him out on their farm. Janie felt unloved and used in this marriage because their relationship was simply just a transaction arranged by her grandmother. Logan provided her with financial stability and she takes on the role of being his housewife. Janie then meets Jody Starks when he comes to their farm and he woos her. Shortly after Janie runs away from Logan and marries Jody. Janie marries Jody hoping he will provide her with the emotional fulfillment she never received from Logan. While Jody seeks only after power, control, and status. These differences in what they hope to get out of their marriage are the source of conflict between them and ultimately leads to the demise of their relationship. Jody’s ambition for power and Machismo lead to his marriage with Janie to fall apart. Through Jody and Janie’s relationship, Hurston illustrates the theme that there must be love, a balance of power and control present in a relationship or else it will be an unhealthy and it’ll fall apart.

Jody’s ambition for power and high status leads to the destruction of his marriage with Janie. Since Jody values status at the opening of the grocery store Jody puts Janie on display because he wants to demonstrate to the townspeople that he has the better wife and he doesn’t want “nobody else’s wife to rank with her… She must look on herself as the bell-cow, the other women were the gang.”(Hurston,51) This statement demonstrates that Jody views Janie as a showpiece that can assist him in establishing his dominance over the people of Eatonville since he views her as being superior to the women And by being married to a woman who he deems to be superior to the townswomen he wants that to demonstrate his power. Throughout their relationship Jody takes the pride he has in Janie being his wife too far and this hurts their relationship. He puts Janie on a pedestal, insinuating that he views her as a trophy that is meant for display. Jody believes that since he has placed Janie on a “high chair for her to sit in and overlook the world,”(Hurston, 52) she should be grateful because he thinks that “many women would be glad to be in her place.”(Hurston, 52) By placing Janie on this “high chair” he isolates Janie and he creates a divide between her and the townspeople. When the mule died, the townspeople conducted a ceremony that Jody had forbidden her to attend. Jody tells her, “You ain’t gon’ off in all dat mess uh commonness.”(Hurston, 73) This left Janie feeling “sullen and he resented that.”(Hurston, 73) Jody viewed him isolating her from the townspeople as him “pouring honor all over her.”(Hurston, 89) Since Jody values status, he wants to establish Janie as being superior to the townspeople by isolating her from them and showing her off so he can look powerful. However, Janie does not value having high status and she is unhappy since she only wants love, not status.

Throughout Jody’s time as the mayor of Eatonville, his machismo intensifies and he neglects Janie. While they were traveling to Eatonville Jody mostly “talked about plans for the town when he got there,”(Hurston, 42) he didn’t “make many speeches with rhymes”(Hurston,42) to Janie. This demonstrates that Jody views his leadership to be more important to him than Janie since he chooses to ignore her and focus on the town rather than express his love for her. Janie soon realizes that Jody is more interested in his leadership role than their relationship and she tells Jody “It jus’ look lak it keeps us in some way we ain’t natural wid one ‘nother. You’se always off talkin’ and fixin’ things, Ah feels lak Ah’m jus’ markin’ time. Hope it soon gits over”(Hurston, 54) to which Jody responds, “Over Janie. I god, Ah aint even started good.”(Hurston, 54) Janie feels Jody is too consumed in work to spend time with her and she consequently feels dejected. Considering that she left a loveless marriage she was hoping that by marrying Jodie she would receive what her first marriage lacked — which is love. At the grand opening of the store, the crowd wanted Janie to give a speech, but Jody stops her. He explains to the crowd that “Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home.”(Hurston, 53) this left Janie “feeling cold.”(Hurston, 53) This misogynistic statement caused their relationship to further deteriorate because Janie felt like she has had her right to speak taken away from her.

Many readers may be confused when people label Janie as an example of a feminist character due to her willingness to put up with Jody. Despite her moments of rebellion, for the most part, she succumbs to be the perfect and ideal wife to Jodie. For years, she follows his orders, silences herself, and sticks around after he hits and berates her. When Jody is sick and in a weakened state Janie’s suffering has imbued her with confidence and power. Janie expresses to how unhappy he has made her, and he dies, as if he was brought down by the force of Janie’s rage. Years of mistreatment gave Janie a greater appreciation for being single because with Jody’s death she was released from the patriarchy and free to continue her journey of finding love.”

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Women in Novel of Zora Neale Hurston. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/women-in-novel-of-zora-neale-hurston/