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A 19th Century Woman’s Life Essay

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Women in the early 19th century were considered their husbands’ property, and therefore domestic violence against wives was not uncommon during this time period. Women were taught that their place was in the home, and they were expected to be obedient wives and to never hold a thought or opinion that differed from that of their husband’s. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie demonstrates to the reader early on in the book her naturally outspoken personality and youthful independence. At sixteen years old, just as she is beginning to become curious about love and the opposite sex, the beautiful young Janie is thrust into marriage and she is faced with having to hide who she is as a person in order to conform to the expectations of a wife during that time. Janie’s profound outspokenness, her beauty, and her subliminal unwillingness to be controlled causes her difficulty as she faces domestic violence, first during her marriage to Joe Starks and again during her marriage to Tea Cake. However, Janie’s physical reaction towards the two different men abusing her is generally the same in each marriage, she remained quiet and cried. However, her mental reactions and feelings toward the abuse changes greatly.
The man Janie initially married, Logan Killicks, was an older man who treated Janie very well, and he never once hit her. Janie speaks to Nanny, saying “No’m, he ain’t even talked ‘bout hittin’ me. He says he never mean to lay de weight uh his hand on me in malice. He chops all the wood he think Ah wants and den he totes it inside de kitchen for me. Keeps both water buckets full” (Hurston,p. 22-23). The downfall of their marriage was aggravated by the fact that Janie never fell in love with Logan Killick...


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... domestic violence. When she met and married Joe, she was barely 18 and only had one or two years of experience of how she should go about fulfilling her duties as a wife. When Joe began to hit her, she was only 23 and had never been hurt in a relationship, so it shocked her to be hit by someone she was supposed to love. When she met Tea Cake, she had been married for over 20 years and, by this time, was used to keeping to herself to deal with emotional pain. She was accustomed to being hit by men, but Tea Cake’s comforting behavior and his expression of regret for hurting her prevented Janie from harboring anger towards him. This was the difference between Janie’s two relationships that ruined the first one and made the second. These factors also were the cause of the change in Janie’s mental reaction towards domestic abuse from both of the men that had hurt her.



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