Mary Helen Washington’s essay denies Hurston’s effort to create a liberated female
character in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Washington believes that Janie is actually
excluded “from power, particularly from the power of oral speech”. Janie plays a role of
an object for men to look at and talk about. The consequence of this oppression is shown
after Jody’s death, rather than declaring her freedom, Janie appreciates her own hair by
looking at the mirror just like other men in the town. She is banned from taking part in
the porch talk, so she hides her voice. Even when she speaks, her voice does not lead to
power, action nor contentment, but self-division. Washington disagrees with Barbara
Johnson’s opinion that Janie’s self-division leads to her discovery of her own voice.
When it seems that Janie can finally speak of her own mind while living with Tea Cake,
Tea Cake becomes the ...view middle of the document...
After Janie’s marriage
with Logan, she gradually finds that “her husband had stopped talking in rhymes to
her”(P26). Furthermore, the next day after her wedding with Jody, “ Joe didn’t make
any speeches with rhymes to her”(P34). Janie’s feeling depends on her husbands’ words
rather than herself. For her, men’s voices have great influence on her. She desires to hear
commentaries from the men but fails to consider own thoughts. In addition, once after
Jody’s speech to the town people, one suggests letting Janie say something. Jody refuses
before Janie can respond. “Janie made her face laugh after a short pause, but it wasn’t too
easy”(P43). Though she is not happy about this and wants to get a chance to speak, she
does not do anything but remains silence and keeps her thoughts to herself. Even though
Janie seems to begin to speak of her own mind after Tea Cake comes into her life, her
voice is constantly drown out by Tea Cake’s. In the case when Tea Cake spends all her
money on a magnificent feast, Janie shows her anger. However, Tea Cake claims that
he does not want to drag Janie down to other women’s level and promises to win the
money back. Janie is content and does not speak. She gives up the chance to show her
power vocally under the oppression of Tea Cake’s speech. Later, Janie sees Tea Cake
becomes intimate with another girl without telling her; she gets mad and argues with him.
However, by the end of their argument, Janie says “she wanted to hear his denial” (P138).
She believes in Tea Cake even she sees that by herself. She neglects the truth and is
willing to follow Tea Cake’s words blindly. The emphasis on the power of men’s speech
makes Janie a character with little oral strength. Ironically, Hurston makes Tea Cake the
person who can speak his feelings rather than Janie. Tea Cake speaks about his loneness
at work and successfully persuades Janie to find a job with him. He changes Janie’s mind
and consequently controls her will and voice completely. Janie is a victim of the male
dominating society, and a passive role in all the conversations.