Throughout a person’s lifetime, he or she is likely to encounter a death that will have a profound effect on the way they look at themselves and the world around them. This is true for Janie Crawford, the main character of the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. The book takes place in the early 1900s and follows the life of a young black woman named Janie; her story is told in the form of a flashback as she describes her life to her friend Pheoby. Her tale begins when she is a teenager, illustrating her life with her grandmother and three different men up until her return to Eatonville. It follows her quest to find true love, and shows her grow stronger despite the judgment she faces. During Janie’s life, she loses many people who are close to her, including her grandmother Nanny, her second husband Jody, and her third husband Tea Cake; these deaths overall have a positive effect on Janie because they each bring her closer to finding her voice, becoming truly independent, and widening her horizons.
At the beginning of the book, Janie struggles to find her voice and tends to let other people tell her what to do. Each death brings her closer to finding her voice and speaking out for what she believes in by connecting with others. One example of this is just before Jody dies, he is lying in his death bed after weeks of not allowing Janie to visit him. Janie enters his room without permission and tells him off, saying “You wouldn't listen. You done live wid me for twenty years and you don't half know me atall. And you could have but you was so busy worshippin' de works of yo' own hands and cuffin folks around in their minds till you didn't see uh whole heap uh things yuh could have.'
'Leave heah Janie, Don't come heah--'
'Ah knowed you wasn't gointuh lissen tuh me. You changes everything but nothin' don't change you- not even death. But Ah ain't goin' outa here and Ah ain't gointuh hush. Naw, you gointuh listen tuh me one time befo' you die” (Hurston 79). In this instance Janie is heard using her speech as a form of empowerment. Instead of submitting to Jody’s order for her to stay out of his room, she enters and ridicules Jody for his selfishness and lack of actual care for her. Her newfound voice is used to call him out on the verbal abuse he has forced her to suffer through. This shows the positivity of Jody’s death because his weakness finally helped Janie realize the injustice he had put her through by stifling her speech, and encouraged her to disobey his commands to stay quiet and communicate his wrongdoings to him. With his death she finally has the courage to voice her true thoughts and opinions. Another occurrence of death forcing Janie utilize her voice is during her trial for Tea Cake’s murder. When Janie’s testimony is described to the readers it is said that “She made them see how couldn’t ever want to be rid of him. She didn’t plead to anybody. She just sat there and told and when she was through she hushed....