Their Eyes Were Watching God was originally written in 1937 by Zora Neale Hurston. During that time, women were not as equal to men as they are today. Because of women’s inferiority to men, they were treated unequally as well. The main character of the story is Janie Mae Crawford, a black woman. She is a black woman who realizes, through her marriages, how women are viewed and treated in society. Hurston uses symbolism of Janie’s experiences in her marriages and the mule to epitomize black women’s oppression in society.Janie’s marital relationship with Logan Killicks is similar to that of a parent and child. One reason may be the immense age difference between the two. Logan Killicks was of old age, while Janie was only sixteen. When Logan tries to get Janie to assist him in the barn instead of being in the kitchen, she replies “‘Youse in yo’ place and Ah’m in mine.'” However, Logan tells her that he decides her place (Hurston 4.31). Like a parent to their child, Logan tells Janie that she must do what she’s told, when she’s told, and how she’s told to do it. In this moment, there is a clash of two different views on the role of a woman in marriage. Janie doesn’t realize it yet, but her view is that of equality; the man and woman equally pulls their weight in the marriage. Each person has their own particular role and responsibilities. However, Logan’s view is that of inequality; the man is superior to the woman, therefore, the woman should only carry out the role given to her by her husband. Janie’s marital relationship with Joe Starks is that of an owner and an object. Joe treats Janie as an object of his possession. For example, Janie is prohibited from talking to anyone on the porch of the store. One day janie inserts herself into the conversation, but is shot down by Joe Starks (Hurston 6.75). Traditionally, women are to be silent and less opinionated, especially when a group of men are discussing something. By breaking that role and sharing an opinion, the man is looked at differently by other men for not having control over his wife. Because a man has a certain expectation, he chastises his wife and reclaims his dominance over her. Janie realizes this when Joe’s dying. She sits by his deathbed and expresses how she feels about Joe silencing her throughout their marriage. Men saw it fit to oppress women. The main mode of oppression: silence. By keeping women silenced, men take away a woman’s individuality, and strips them of the only voice they have. It, also, tends to affect women’s thoughts. Due to the belief that a man is superior to a woman in a traditional marriage, the woman is expected to be submissive to her husband. Her husband wants her submission, oppressing her, and stripping her of her individuality. Most women, like Janie, have no choice but to submit to keep life easier for them. Janie’s marital relationship with Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods was that of equality. After Janie and Tea Cake start living on the muck, Janie began to work on the muck with Tea Cake and other men and women, and later Tea Cake helps Janie with dinner (Hurston 14.133). Traditionally, men and women were seen as unequal counterparts in a marriage. Only the men and should be getting their hands dirty, and only women should be in the kitchen cooking and preparing to serve her husband and the others in their home. However, Janie and Tea Cake’s marriage embarks the view of marriage as men and women being equal counterparts. Both men and women should be able to work and get their hands dirty together. Also, both men and women should be able to prepare food and serve each other. In the marriage between Janie and Logan and Janie and Joe, Janie is treated as a mule. In her marriage to Logan, Janie is treated like a mule in that she was expected to do what he said, including hard labor, if he said so. In her marriage to Joe, Janie is treated like a mule in that she was meant to be submissive and less opinionated. She was meant to do what Joe says with no problem and “back talk.” Black women are the mules of the world (Hurston 2.14). The time period in which Nanny refers to when she makes this statement is that of slavery and segregation. During this time, blacks were considered inferior to whites, and women were considered inferior to men. So, not only were black women inferior to white men and women, they were, also, inferior to black men. Mules are considered the lowest creatures of the world. A mule is the product of a male donkey and a female horse. By comparing mules to black women, Hurston is addressing the social view that women are the lowest creatures on this earth. Their Eyes Were Watching God is about Janie Mae Crawford. Specifically, her journey to finding her voice. The voice that was kept from her. The voice she was never able to use. The voice she was never given a chance to use. The voice that defined her as a woman. The voice that would set her free. Free from social constructs that tell her that a man needed to be there. He needed to be there to think for her, speak for her, and do for her. Free from social constructs that say that women were to be submissive to their husbands. Free from social constructs that say women didn’t deserve individuality simply because they were women. It would set her free from men. Free from those men that she married. Free from the men who upheld these social constructs. It would set her free from other women like her. Free from those women who fell to these social constructs and condemned her for wanting to be an individual. That voice. It was always there. She didn’t see it. She wasn’t allowed to see it. Why? Because she’s a woman, and a woman had no reason to speak for herself. Why? Because her husband was supposed to be there to do it for her. After all, he was a man and she was a woman.

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