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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Speech is arguably the primary source of communication for humanity, enabling us to experience and share life with one other through our words. However, we see a different path of life in Janie, the main character in the book Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie’s character evolves with using control of silence to her benefit, helping her find what she has always struggled to have: Individuality and independence. The relationships Janie has with her three husbands revolve around three versions of silence, while in pursuit of what she calls her “pear tree”, her true love. Logan forces silence from Janie which becomes an oppressor; Joe exploits Janie’s silence and uses it as a manipulator; and Janie’s only true love, Tea Cake, allows Janie to control silence, which becomes her liberator. In the book Their Eyes Were Watching God, silence is manifest as an evolving source of empowerment and identity for Janie, in that her character is molded not only by her speech but, more importantly, by her silence.

In Janie’s journey to find herself, she initially has limited control of her own life, being forced into marriage by Nanny. Nanny wants what she feels is best for Janie, wishing for her to have security and protection. This marriage provides the perfect solution in Nanny’s eyes; Nanny promises Janie that all will go well with her marriage even though it may not seem so at the time. Janie reluctantly agrees, but soon realizes that Logan does not have her best interest at heart, causing her to quickly tire of him. Soon after Nanny’s death, the reader sees Logan change entirely. He commands Janie by ordering her around, expecting her to do whatever he demands of her. With Janie being a child, she is somewhat helpless to defend herself ...

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...of love the reader sees from Tea Cake is his rescuing Janie from the dog attack. This unravels the mystery, revealing that Tea Cake does really love Janie; he is her pear blossom on her pear tree.

Hurston successfully uses speech and silence to create a fascinating story about a young woman who grows up to find her individuality and in the end, her pear blossom. Logan, Joe, and Tea Cake all play an integral part in Janie becoming the strong, independent woman she is, ultimately allowing her to break the chain of abuse suffered by her mother and grandmother. Silence is the barrier in Janie’s life that she endures; through the suffering, Janie emerges to honor the struggles in her life, transformed into a woman who is beautiful, mature, and strong. Janie is rewarded with peace and happiness that her life now offers, with the pear tree that is forever hers to embrace.