The why don’t you go on and see

The world of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God was one of
subjugation and catastrophe. Through the span of the novel, she found herself
in three marriages, one she escapes from and the other two end tragically.
First, her grandmother enforced her to live with a man whom she did not love
and did not know. She then left him to marry another man who offered her
prosperity in terms of material possessions but left her in complete spiritual
poverty. After her second husband’s death, she finally claims responsibility
and control of her life, and through her shared love with Tea Cake is she truly
able to overthrow her status of subjection.  Shortly afterwards, Tea Cake dies. All in all,
she goes through a prolonged period of adversity. Consequently, during her long
years with Logan Killicks and Joe Starks she experiences social oppression that
causes her to curtail her speech. Not only does she become silent but she
begins to conceal her genuine emotions from the outside world.

 

To start off, throughout the novel,
Hurston frequently uses Janie’s hair to exemplify her power and unusual
identity. Her hair depicts her resilience and distinctiveness. However, during
her marriage with Joe, her voice becomes restrained and her hair becomes
cloistered due to the fact that she loses her freedom. Joe made obligatory for
Janie to tie her hair and put it under a kerchief because he saw how much all
the men in the town admired her hair and didn’t want her to go off with any of
them. He wanted complete control over Janie so he belittled her power by making
her hide her hair. To better explain the fact that Janie lost her freedom, in
chapter 6, when the townspeople are having fun on the porch of the store,
arguing and impersonating to court young girls for Jody’s entertainment, Joe
ruins Janie’s fun by making her stop watching the scene and attend some
business in the store. In fact, Joe tells Janie: “I god, Janie why don’t you go
on and see whut Mrs. Bogle want? Whut you waitin’ on?” (Hurston 70) Janie
wanted to hear the rest of the play-acting but she just got up and went inside
silently and obediently. Another example that shows this is when the town is
getting ready to escort the mule’s carcass. Janie also gets ready to go. However,
Joe stops her and tells her that she has to take care of the store. In fact, he
says “…You aint goin’ off in all dat mess uh commonness. Ah’m surprised at yuh
for askin’.” (Hurston 60) Afterwards, he just tells her to shut the door behind
him. Janie does not respond whatsoever to Joe and did not argue with him,
instead she was silent and obeyed Joe’s command even though she wanted to go. In
these two incidents, we see that Janie does not argue with Joe instead she
simply stays silent and does what he says. She also hid her feelings from Jody
mainly because she feared what he would think if she expressed them. Under Joe,
she feels like she is under oppression since he doesn’t allow her to do or say
anything. So, Hurston uses Janie’s silent voice and cloistered hair to show the
readers that she lacked sovereignty over herself and lacked freedom to do
things.

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Furthermore, in chapter 8, Jody becomes
extremely sick. Unfortunately, he dies at the end of chapter 8, but Janie
really doesn’t mind his death since he suppressed and silenced her all the
time. So, when Janie realized that Joe died, she went over to the dresser in
her room and let down her plentiful hair. In fact, in the text it says “She
went over to the dresser and looked hard at her skin and features. The young
girl was gone, but a handsome woman had taken her place. She tore off her
kerchief from her head and led down her plentiful hair.” (Hurston 87) After years
of confinement under Joe’s reign, Janie lets down her hair. Now that Jody is
dead Janie feels as if the weight has been taken off of her chest and now she
can relax and do whatever she wants. After Jody dies, Janie is reborn. She
basically has a new life where she can pursue things that she would never had
been able to do with her marriage to Jody. In fact, at the end of chapter 9,
Janie is talking to her friend Pheoby. Janie told Pheoby: “Tain’t dat Ah
worries over Joe’s death, Pheoby. Ah jus’ loves dis freedom.” (Hurston 93) This
ultimately goes to show that Janie regained freedom and sovereignty over
herself. She no longer cares about what others say or think, now she does what
she wants to do without remorse.

 

Finally, Janie letting down her plentiful
hair was a distinctive mark on her femininity. Basically, “the weight, length,
and glory” of her hair confirms the fact that her womanhood is still strong and
overall intact. Her gaining back her freedom is reflected in the return of
confidence in her womanhood. Even though she had been through a painful
marriage, her womanhood was still kept together. We would think that Janie’s
womanhood was gone after her marriage with Jody, but it was still there.
Hurston purposely picked Janie’s hair as a symbol of her power. Even through
the roughest of times, Janie’s hair was still beautiful which reflects her
power. In fact, in the very beginning of the novel, when Janie returns back to
Eatonville, the porch-sitters main question is: “Why dat ole forty year ole’
‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?” (Hurston
2) This shows that even though she went through a long period of adversity, her
womanhood and her true self was still there.

 

In conclusion, Janie’s silent voice and
cloistered hair represented her inability to express herself. When she was
given commands by Joe she would just do them obediently. Hurston purposefully
symbolisms Janie’s hair to show her strength and power and then makes Joe take
that power from her by making her tie it in a kerchief. However, after Joe
dies, Janie takes off her kerchief and lets down her hair. She takes control of
her life and freedom after Joe dies. In fact, she loves the freedom that she
gets after his death. Janie letting her hair down is a distinctive mark on her
femininity. The weight, length, and glory of her hair confirms the fact that
her womanhood is still strong and overall intact. The fact that her hair still
had weight, length, and glory shows that she still is optimistic and strong
even though she goes through a long period of adversity.

 

 

 

           

           

 

 

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