The Awakening And Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

The Awakening And Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

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Throughout Southern literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries, husbands were often depicted as the keepers of their wives. These men were the heads of their households and often dictated the behavior, responsibilities, and social experiences of their female counterparts. It was assumed that this dominance would bring them wealth and success while promulgating an image of a model family that would win them friends and a high reputation. This expectation of male dominance occurs in the novels The Awakening and Their Eyes Were Watching God as both Leonce Pontellier and Jody Starks endeavor to exert some control over their wayward wives in order to better achieve their goals. However, rather than enforcing this facet of masculinity both Zora Neale Hurston and Kate Chopin challenge the legitimacy of male dominance through the unfavorable consequences of each man’s attempts.
To begin, in Their Eyes Were Watching God Jody Stark’s domineering nature initially appears to be successful in subduing Janie and molding her into his ideal wife, but upon further inspection it becomes apparent that it is the cause of Janie’s eventual emotional distance from him. In the early months of their marriage, Jody is able to transform Janie into a wife representative of his newly acquired wealth and rank as he instructs her to wear her finest dress for the opening of the store (Hurston, p. 41). Her submission to this request allows Jody to believe that Janie can be made in to an obedient wife who will bolster his reputation and connections within their community. Therefore, as their marriage progresses Jody’s attempts at dominance increase. For example, when Jody is elected mayor of Eatonville Janie is asked to give a speech in celebration of his a...


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... himself and Janie from the community by flaunting his wealth through an extravagant two-story house and decorated spitting pots (Hurston, p. 47). Furthermore, Jody abused his power by running Henry Pitts out of town for stealing ribbon cane which became a source of contention with the townspeople who believe that “colored folks oughtn’t tuh be so hard on one ‘nother” (Hurston, p.48). This is significant because it reveals a belief among the people of Eatonville that Jody was starting to act more like the white slave owners they had come here to escape rather than the intelligent and compassionate black man they thought he should be. Jody’s endeavors to exemplify the masculine archetype through marriage and success gave him a newly founded unpopularity that contradicts the well-established connections and social order that are often associated with ideal masculinity.

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