The world of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God was one ofsubjugation and catastrophe. Through the span of the novel, she found herselfin three marriages, one she escapes from and the other two end tragically.First, her grandmother enforced her to live with a man whom she did not loveand did not know.
She then left him to marry another man who offered herprosperity in terms of material possessions but left her in complete spiritualpoverty. After her second husband’s death, she finally claims responsibilityand control of her life, and through her shared love with Tea Cake is she trulyable to overthrow her status of subjection. Shortly afterwards, Tea Cake dies. All in all,she goes through a prolonged period of adversity.
Consequently, during her longyears with Logan Killicks and Joe Starks she experiences social oppression thatcauses her to curtail her speech. Not only does she become silent but shebegins to conceal her genuine emotions from the outside world. To start off, throughout the novel,Hurston frequently uses Janie’s hair to exemplify her power and unusualidentity. Her hair depicts her resilience and distinctiveness. However, duringher marriage with Joe, her voice becomes restrained and her hair becomescloistered due to the fact that she loses her freedom. Joe made obligatory forJanie to tie her hair and put it under a kerchief because he saw how much allthe men in the town admired her hair and didn’t want her to go off with any ofthem. He wanted complete control over Janie so he belittled her power by makingher hide her hair. To better explain the fact that Janie lost her freedom, inchapter 6, when the townspeople are having fun on the porch of the store,arguing and impersonating to court young girls for Jody’s entertainment, Joeruins Janie’s fun by making her stop watching the scene and attend somebusiness in the store.
In fact, Joe tells Janie: “I god, Janie why don’t you goon and see whut Mrs. Bogle want? Whut you waitin’ on?” (Hurston 70) Janiewanted to hear the rest of the play-acting but she just got up and went insidesilently and obediently. Another example that shows this is when the town isgetting ready to escort the mule’s carcass. Janie also gets ready to go. However,Joe stops her and tells her that she has to take care of the store.
In fact, hesays “…You aint goin’ off in all dat mess uh commonness. Ah’m surprised at yuhfor askin’.” (Hurston 60) Afterwards, he just tells her to shut the door behindhim. Janie does not respond whatsoever to Joe and did not argue with him,instead she was silent and obeyed Joe’s command even though she wanted to go.
Inthese two incidents, we see that Janie does not argue with Joe instead shesimply stays silent and does what he says. She also hid her feelings from Jodymainly because she feared what he would think if she expressed them. Under Joe,she feels like she is under oppression since he doesn’t allow her to do or sayanything. So, Hurston uses Janie’s silent voice and cloistered hair to show thereaders that she lacked sovereignty over herself and lacked freedom to dothings.
Furthermore, in chapter 8, Jody becomesextremely sick. Unfortunately, he dies at the end of chapter 8, but Janiereally doesn’t mind his death since he suppressed and silenced her all thetime. So, when Janie realized that Joe died, she went over to the dresser inher room and let down her plentiful hair.
In fact, in the text it says “Shewent over to the dresser and looked hard at her skin and features. The younggirl was gone, but a handsome woman had taken her place. She tore off herkerchief from her head and led down her plentiful hair.
” (Hurston 87) After yearsof confinement under Joe’s reign, Janie lets down her hair. Now that Jody isdead Janie feels as if the weight has been taken off of her chest and now shecan relax and do whatever she wants. After Jody dies, Janie is reborn.
Shebasically has a new life where she can pursue things that she would never hadbeen able to do with her marriage to Jody. In fact, at the end of chapter 9,Janie is talking to her friend Pheoby. Janie told Pheoby: “Tain’t dat Ahworries over Joe’s death, Pheoby. Ah jus’ loves dis freedom.
” (Hurston 93) Thisultimately goes to show that Janie regained freedom and sovereignty overherself. She no longer cares about what others say or think, now she does whatshe wants to do without remorse. Finally, Janie letting down her plentifulhair was a distinctive mark on her femininity.
Basically, “the weight, length,and glory” of her hair confirms the fact that her womanhood is still strong andoverall intact. Her gaining back her freedom is reflected in the return ofconfidence in her womanhood. Even though she had been through a painfulmarriage, her womanhood was still kept together. We would think that Janie’swomanhood was gone after her marriage with Jody, but it was still there.Hurston purposely picked Janie’s hair as a symbol of her power. Even throughthe roughest of times, Janie’s hair was still beautiful which reflects herpower. In fact, in the very beginning of the novel, when Janie returns back toEatonville, the porch-sitters main question is: “Why dat ole forty year ole”oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?” (Hurston2) This shows that even though she went through a long period of adversity, herwomanhood and her true self was still there.
In conclusion, Janie’s silent voice andcloistered hair represented her inability to express herself. When she wasgiven commands by Joe she would just do them obediently. Hurston purposefullysymbolisms Janie’s hair to show her strength and power and then makes Joe takethat power from her by making her tie it in a kerchief. However, after Joedies, Janie takes off her kerchief and lets down her hair. She takes control ofher life and freedom after Joe dies.
In fact, she loves the freedom that shegets after his death. Janie letting her hair down is a distinctive mark on herfemininity. The weight, length, and glory of her hair confirms the fact thather womanhood is still strong and overall intact. The fact that her hair stillhad weight, length, and glory shows that she still is optimistic and strongeven though she goes through a long period of adversity.