Janie Crawford, the main character of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were
Watching God, strives to find her own voice throughout the novel and, in my
opinion, she succeeds even though it takes her over thirty years to do it. Each
one of her husbands has a different effect on her ability to find that voice.
Janie discovers her will to find her voice when she is living with Logan.
Since she did not marry him for love, tensions arise as time moves on and Logan
begins to order her around. But Janie is young and her will has not yet been
broken. She has enough strength to say “No” and to leave him by running away
with Joe. At this point, Janie has found a part of her voice, which is her not
willing to be like a slave in her husband’s hands.
After Janie marries Joe, I think that she discovers that he is not the
person she thought he was. He tells her what to do the same way Logan did, just
a little bit more delicately by saying that it is not a woman’s job to do
whatever he does not want her to do. Throughout her twenty years of life with
Joe, Janie loses her self-consciousness because she becomes like a little kid
being told what to do by an adult, Joe. She does it without even questioning
herself, which is why I think that she loses the part of her voice that she has
discovered by running away from Logan. At times, she has enough courage to say
no to Joe, but he always has something to say back that discourages Janie from
continuing her argument. But, in my opinion, Janie does not lose her will to
find herself and it might have even become stronger because the reader can see
that Janie is not happy with the way things are now and that she will probably
want to change them in the future.
When Joe dies and Janie marries Tea Cake, she feels free because even
though Tea Cake asks for her opinion when he does something and cares about her.
Since this is Janie’s first marriage where she actually loves her husband, she
feels free and discovers many new things in life that she has not noticed before.
She becomes more sociable, wants to go places with Tea Cake, enjoys working
with other people, and likes shooting game. Although she never shot a rifle
before, she becomes a better shooter that Tea Cake, and he respects her for that,
which allows Janie to get back her self-respect which she had lost while being
with her previous husbands. In a way, Janie’s spiritual awakening begins when
she lives with Tea Cake.
As the reader can see, Janie has a hard life where she has to struggle
in order not to become inferior to her husbands. She succeeds when she is with
Tea Cake, which also marks the time when her inner voice starts to awaken. But
not until after Tea Cake’s death does she realize that she has understood her
place in life, or in other words, she has found her voice.