Turley Rp

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Turley Rp

  1. 1. The Difficult Journey of a Black Woman By: Becky Turley English 102 Mrs. Owens
  2. 2. Becky Turley TURLEY 1 Mrs. Owens English 102 April 29th 2010 The Difficult Journey of a Black Woman One could only imagine what a young black woman went through in the early nineteen twenties. In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, the character Janie struggles each day and suppresses her feeling unconsciously. The novel is about a young black female that is raised in the early nineteen hundreds by her grandmother in a mostly white town. Janie is an American girl that does not realize that she is black until later she sees a photo of herself. The novel tells a story about Janie and of her three successive husbands and what each meant to her and how they were involved in her struggles with personal freedom. Each husband offered Janie something different but yet she mostly yearned for true love. The love that Janie achieves is a means of escaping from the things she doesn’t want to remember and of the dullness and dread that she feels. One of the first lines in the novel is “Ships at a distance have every mans wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the watcher turns his eyes on
  3. 3. TURLEY 2 resignation, his dreams mocked to death by time” (Hurston, 1). In this novel Janie is the watcher. Janie thinks of God as being the all powerful but not part of the master plan. Janie believes God made nature and nature is responsible for the rest of the things that happen. Sometimes what you want stops right in front of you and other times you have to fight for it and then again you may never get it. According to Roger Rosenblatt, “The images of the sea which express a certain serenity at the end of Their Eyes Were Watching God are used to express a longing, specifically Janie’s in the first lines of the book”(Modern Critical Views, 31). Zora Neale Hurston expresses the philosophy of “striving to become white”. She does so in a time when race was a major issue. She portrays a mostly black society with a changing political message and does so without mentioning the white population but on one or two occasions. In addition to doing so in such an intriguing way she also does it without attacking the white population. Hurston also focuses on the working class African Americans and the culture and beliefs of the working class and also she does not focus only on the money but on the fact that they enjoyed what they did each day.
  4. 4. TURLEY 3 During the novel Janie is the opposite of what most black characters tend to be. She is light haired and fair skinned and was raised as white folks were. Janie was born in Florida and raised by her grandmother. Her life was calm until her teens when she begins her attraction with boys. Her granny interferes with this and introduces her to an older man with money, land and a “sense of “security”. Nanny believed that” de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as ah been able tuh find out” (Hurston, 14). This quote is and example of social hierarchy based on race and gender. While the fact blacks were often put down and discriminated against by white men is common knowledge, Nanny points out that black women are even more victimized than any. She feels as though women are the weaker sex and during this time they were. Women had it bad, especially black women. Janie eventually marries Logan, the older man with all the security but cannot fall in love with him after attempting to do so. Janie later runs into Jody aka Joe, a fast talking, ambitious man on his way to start his own black community with plans on making a fortune. His ambition intrigues her and she leaves her husband and runs away with him. He is a very persuasive man and believed that Jody had no business sitting on the porch gossiping with the other black folks. He keeps her isolated and eventually she becomes unhappy with him. He later becomes mayor of this town and he starts
  5. 5. TURLEY 4 treating Janie like property. This shatters her image of him and her marriage crumbles. Several times while being with Jody he mistreated and disrespected her, yet she stayed at his side. Later Jody becomes ill and dies. When Jody dies it is a turning point in Janie’s life. She sits afterwards at his deathbed and mourns and thinks to herself to that mourning should last no longer than the grief. Janie then becomes the town widow until teacake comes along. Teacake is one of a kind to Janie and she finds true love and happiness with him. After getting rabies trying to rescue Janie from the big hurricane, he becomes delirious and Janie is forced to shoot him in self defense. Janie then returns to the town she and teacake started their life in. Janie attempts to shake the idea of being “white” throughout the novel but only succeeds after Teacake comes along. Teacake allows Janie to experience the world around her. He allows her to sit on the porch swing gossiping while eating taters. He exposes her to his other African American friends and allows her to feel a sense of proudness and togetherness with them. Teacake takes great pride in being able to provide for his woman especially since she has led such a privileged life. Although Janie never seems conflicted about living a poor life with Tea Cake, she kind of has to agree to abide by what he
  6. 6. TURLEY 5 provides or damage the pride of the man she loves. Janie feels more like part of the black community than she has eve felt when she meets Teacake and his friends. Hurston uses Janie’s feelings of unity with her race to emphasize the message of pride and togetherness. While her last husband Joe was wealthy and smart, he shut her up in a big house with everything she wanted but could not enjoy. He provided for her everything except happiness and exposure to others of her kind. He isolated her from the world and mistreated her in his last days. He did not allow her to shake the feeling of being “white”. Teacake did not have wealth but he provided exposure and happiness most of the time she spent with him. True love is what Janie has yearned for since living with Nanny. Janie’s ability to fall in love is rare even if the love ended in tragedy. Janie’s life was like a journey through many different lifestyles and communities including the thriving African American culture. This novel expresses the life of a black woman that one cannot possible imagine unless they go through it themselves. Hurston however did an excellent job portraying the life of a black woman in these times but many critique her and will continue to do so.
  7. 7. TURLEY 6 According to Harold Bloom “Hurston was both a mythologist and a vitalist, and her self image is reflected in Janie’s heroism” (Bloom’s notes, 10) In Critical Perspectives Past and Present, Richard Wright expresses “Miss Hurston can write, but her prose is cloaked in the facile sensuality that has dogged negro expression since the days of Phyllis Wheatley and her dialogues manage to catch the psychological movements of the Negro folk mind in their pure simplicity, but that’s as far as it goes”(Gates 17). Hurston’s characters are desperately trying to say something. What they are saying depends on the reader and their beliefs about culture, life and living in these times. Hurston succeeds in her message about politics and does so without attacking the white people and is able to gain the respect of most readers, may they be black or white or of other ethnicity. She exhibits the striving society of the black people and does so respectfully. Carol Batkar expresses her opinion on the novel as a “context for the sexual politics of earlier writers, critics and historians that have turned to the discourses of the black women's club movement, which had its origins in the ant lynching campaign, and the classic blues, sung and written in large part by African American women” (Batker 1). Hurston’s truthfulness and way of writing without disrespecting other races showed how amazing of a writer she is. Not many writers would be able to do this in a way that would not put other races and beliefs to shame.
  8. 8. Works Cited 1) Bloom, Harold ed. “Bloom’s Notes” Chelsea House, Broomall, PA 1999 2) Bloom, Harold ed. “Modern Critical Views” Chelsea House, Broomall, PA 1986 3) Gates, Henry L, & Appiah, K.A, “Zora Neale Hurston Critical Perspectives and Present and Past “Amistad Press New York, NY, 1993 4) Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. JB Lippincott, New York, NY 1937 5) Locke, Alain. “Untitled review of Their Eyes Were Watching God”. Opportunity (1 June 1938). Gates, Jr. New York: Amistad, 1993. 18. 6) http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2838/is_n2_v32/ai_21059951 Carol Batker, African American Review Summer, 1998

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