Feminism Motive in Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay Example

During the 1900s women, more specifically black women were oppressed by social norms due to the fact that men were superior to them by the standards of society. In “There Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neil Hurston, the reader is taken on a journey into Janie’s life, there we discover her relationships with both society and men and the way she decides to live her life as a woman. Woman have been praised for their courage and voice in our present society, however, Zora Neil Huston's novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, is an anti-feminist novel as argued by Jennifer Jordan, due to the fact that Janie is oppressed by her relationships with men in society, therefore I disagree with Mary Jane Lupton who believes Hurston’s novel is pro-feminist. 

I agree with Jennifer Jordan’s opinion of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” not being a feminist novel due to the fact that Janie lacks autonomy because Janie’s life is constantly controlled by men. For instance in her critical article Jordan says, Tea Cake saves Janie from being ordered around by her family and others when they move to the Everglades, but once there, she is ultimately still being controlled by someone, Tea Cake. Through this piece of evidence, the reader is able to see that Hurston’s novel isn't truly a feminist novel due to the fact that Janie isn't truly in control with the events that occur in her life. Jordan’s critical argument supports my belief that this novel isn't a feminist novel since Janie is oppressed by men such as Tea Cake. For instance, “Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss”(Hurston, 147). Through this quote, the reader is able to see that Janie doesn't have autonomy of her life and has instead given that autonomy to Tea Cake since he is able to hit her whenever he pleases to. Tea Cake’s actions are deemed anti-feminist because Janie is being mistreated.

On the other hand, I disagree with Mary Jane Lupton’s belief that Hurston’s novel is pro-feminist due to the fact that in return for a “voice” Janie sacrifices her own happiness and freedom. For instance, Mary Jane Lupton claims that Hurston’s novel is a feminist novel due to the fact that Janie is the ideal image of black women since she takes control of her life, “Rather than sacrificing herself at the altar of love, Janie shoots the rabid Tea Cake to save her own life-instinctively, without premeditation, who can than return to Eatonville and tell her own story”. Although this piece of evidence proves that Hurston’s novel is feminist because here Janie took control of her own life and of the moment and decided to save herself at the expense of having to kill the man she loves, it can be argued that this isn't a feminist novel due to the length of time by which she was oppressed both physically and emotionally by him.

In addition in the novel when Jody starts making fun of Janie, Janie reaches her breaking point and responds to Jody’s insults with an insult of her own, this results in Jody feeling disrespected and angry because, “the cruel deceit of Janie! Making all that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. Joe Starks didn't know the words for all this, but he knew the feeling. So he struck Janie with all his might and drove her from the store” (Hurston, 80). Through this example, the reader is able to see that “Their Eyes Were Watching God” isn't a feminist novel because as seen here, Janie stood up for herself and lashed out on Jody in front of everyone in the store, yet she was quickly put back in her place by Jody, who out of fury, decided to hit Janie and made her flee the store. The “silencing” of Janie done by Jody allows the reader to see how Janie’s relationships with men such as Jody were restraining her from having a voice. 

Lastly, as stated by Jennifer Jordan,  Hurston’s novel isn't a feminist novel due to the fact that Janie lacks the true independence a feminist woman like herself would have. For instance, when Janie tells Jody she wants to go to the Mule’s funeral he opposed and said, “Anyhow they’s liable tuh need me tuh say uh few words over de carcass, dis bein’ uh special case. But you ain't goin off in all dat mess uh commonness. Ah’m surprised at yuh fuh askin”(Hurston, 60). Janie’s lack of independence is seen through the immense authority Jody has to be able to say “ But you ain't goin off in all dat mess uh commonness”, after being told just recently by Janie that she desired to go to the funeral of the Mule. This oppression demonstrates that “Their Eyes Were Watching God” isn't a feminist novel since Janie is restrained from being an independent woman due to her toxic relationship with men such as Jody as well as her reputation in society which restrains her from being free since she has to live up to certain expectations as the mayors wife. 

In addition, when being told she had to marry Logan as a way to secure herself a good life since he had 60 acres of land, Janie says, “Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so” (Hurston, 21). This quote demonstrates Janie’s lack of control over her life with her relationship with men due to the fact that her marriage is being arranged in an attempt on behalf of her Nanny, to better Janie’s life. Despite the good intentions Nanny had, because in the end, it was an arranged marriage, it can be argued that Janie lacks autonomy over her life due to the fact that she can’t even decide who she will be marrying, whom she knows she won't truly love but in the end she still marries him.

Ultimately, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is not a feminist novel as argued by Jennifer Jordan due to the fact that Janie’s relationships with both men and society restrict her from having the voice a feminist novel would give her.



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