Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Janie finds her way out when Joe Starks appears. The first thing Joe does after asking for a drink of water is to name himself: "Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through Georgy" (47). Hurston's naming of Starks is ironic for several reasons. The word stark is often used as a synonym for barren, and Joe Starks and Janie never have any children. Hurston hints at sexual problems that develop between the pair because of their separate beds and Janie's eventual verbal "castration" of Joe in the store. Starks's name is also ironic because of his focus on capitalistic pursuits. Starks's wealth gives him a false sense of power because the townspeople resent him and the things he does to gain his wealth. Starks's name could also be seen as a comment on his desire to be a "big voice." As Janie eventually finds out, there is not much behind the big voice; it is a facade for the starkness inside Joe.

Hurston provides some hints about Joe's true nature through the limiting and subjugating names he calls Janie when they first meet. He calls her "'lil girl-chile'" and "'pretty doll-baby'" (48-49), indications of the role that he will want her to play once he becomes mayor of Eatonville. When Jody names her in the socially prescribed role of "wife," he says, "'Ah wants to make a wife outa you'" (50). He clearly places himself in the position of power by his naming Janie. When Janie tries to name him, substituting the more affectionate "Jody" for "Joe," he is pleased, but still controls the naming. He asks her to "'Call me Jody lak you do sometime,'" and after she starts a sentence with his new name, he cuts her off with "'Leave de s'posin' and everything else to me'" (50). Janie is satisfied to stop "'s'posin'" for the tim...

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... She tells Pheoby, "'Dis house ain't so absent of things lak it used tuh be befo' Tea Cake come along. It's full uh thoughts, 'specially dat bedroom'"(284). Janie transforms her experiences with renaming: Tea Cake becomes the "son of Evening Sun" (281), and the lamp in Janie's hand is a "spark of sun-stuff washing her face in fire" (285). Janie Crawford Killicks Starks Woods has survived a succession of marital and other identities, and at the end of the novel, empowered to tell her own story, she has become a sort of goddess who pulls "in her horizon like a great fish-net" (Gilbert and Gubar 238-39). Janie's last act is an invocation of her self: "She called in her soul to come and see" (286). Janie is the final one who names in Hurston's novel, and with her call to herself, Janie becomes a model of powerful self-identiflcation for later Afro-American women writers."
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