Their Eyes Were Watching God: Silence is Something to Be Valued
Silence: the absence of any sound or noise. The act of being silent or quiet is something that happens everyday, and as a result, often possesses no significance. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston addresses that silence can have a purpose through the main character Janie. Janie, a woman struggling to find and express herself, is often silenced along her journey towards self-revelation. Silence is often an obstacle of hers, yet at the same time it allows time to take in the situation and analyze. Noise can be a distraction or a wall covering a bigger problem. Being quiet allows the true issue to show in its rawest form. Silence, although physically insignificant, can take deeper meaning. Zora Neale Hurston silences Janie to varying degrees to expose male dominance, emphasize conscious thought, and express the lack of a listener.
On Janie's journey towards self discovery and expression, progress is suddenly halted when she encounters controlling men. In respect for Nanny, Janie attempts to live her life through her nanny's expectations and desires. Nanny has taken the hard road in life, and tries her best to help Janie avoid life's unnecessary turmoils: “Yo' Nanny wouldn't harm a hair uh yo' head. She don't want nobody else to do it neither if she kin help it” (Hurston 14). Nanny has all the best intentions by setting Janie up with Logan Killicks, an older man who owns sixty acres of land. The man of Nanny's dreams does not match up with Janie's expectations, for Janie wants to be in a blossoming relationship that she is comfortable being a part of. Logan turns out to be a man of labor and “refuses to hear the real meaning behind [Janie's] words”; He puts her straight to work by chopping wood and picking potatoes (Haurykiewicz). Janie does not desire to be with Logan, but she does find a spark between her and Jody. Sadly, the spark in their relationship quickly ends. Under Jody Starks' rule, Janie is silenced in the public eye. Being the wife of a mayor isn't so glamorous. Jody takes her thoughts and voice away through his words. At the lighting ceremony, Jody states, “Mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech makin'...She's uh woman and her place is in de home” (Hurston 43). Through the failed marriages between the first two men, Hurston emphasizes how men can take away a woman's rights. Janie lacks the freedom of expression under male dominance by being silenced. She isn't able to express how she feels on the inside outside. Julie A. Haurykiewicz, a director at Lawrence University, explains that Janie is very eager to have her voice heard despite male control:“Janie's position on the threshold [after being excluded from the mule funeral] is symbolic of her readiness to cross over into a way of life where she refuses to be silenced”.
With age comes experience. In Janie's early years, no one listens to her and what she has to say because she lacks...