In the novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" written by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie the protagonist is seen by critics as having no voice. For all women silence knows no boundaries of race or culture, and Janie is no exception. Hurston characterizes Janie with the same silence that women at that time & period were forced into, (complete submission.) "Women were to be seen and not heard." Janie spends forty years of her life, learning to achieve/find, her voice against the over-ruling and dominate men in her life. But in the end Janie comes out the victor, breaking the silence. In her essay "What do Feminist Critics Want?" Gilbert states, "Like Wagner's master singers....men had the power of speech,[but]....women like Emily Dickinson, knew that they had, or were supposed to have, the graceful obligation of silence."(34) To question the male voice in "Their Eyes" is an important aspect of the genre which contributes to the story as a whole. Furthermore it is to discover the ways in which the male voice affected Janie's. Weather it be physical or mental, the reader [if reading close] can surpass Janie's verbal silence and allow just her presence to speak for her. Janie's actions are what makes her someone to pay attention to. By first understanding that Janie was silent (verbally)through most of the novel, does not mean she was not heard. Her presence demands respect and by doing so, the reader will find and appreciate Janie as a whole, and not just a "Black Woman" whose voice had been hindered by societies bias. Mary Helen Washington states in her critical essay on Their Eyes, "Ourattentiveness to the possibility that women are excluded categorically from the language of the dominant discourse should h...
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...-defense, and from the voice she expresses in defending her life from Tea Cake. Hurston shows that her characters' voices have been influenced by people's subjection to a dominant authority. Hurston indicates that voice may be personal and yet move into the universal. At the end of the novel, Janie's voice is heard and recognized by Pheoby, who will share it with the community later. Finally there is a unity within Janie that allows her to share her self with others. Janie has found her voice, and she can choose when and how to express it when defining who she is.
Gilbert, Sandra M. "What Do Feminist Critics Want? A Postcard from the volcano." ADE Bulletin 66 (1980).Rpt.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper, 1998.
Wall, Cheryl A. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Casebook. New York: Oxford, 2000.
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