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... that sexuality can bring happiness but it also can very often it can bring troubles. In the society of slaveholders sexuality can bring unhappiness, grief and death. The author wants to bring attention to that matter, to stress that it was terrible to be a slave, but it was an unspeakable terror to be a female slave. Telling the incident with her uncle Benjamin she mentioned that the slave trader wished Benjamin was a girl: He said he would give any price if the handsome lad was a girl.
We thanked God that he was not. (Jacobs, p. 38) Reader, it is not to awaken sympathy for myself that I am telling you truthfully what I suffered in slavery. I do it to kindle a flame of compassion in your hearts for my sisters who are still in bondage, suffering as I once suffered. (Jacobs, p. 38) This phrase perfectly sums up Jacobs work. Based on personal experience and the experience of millions other slaves the author set out to explore the roots of evil, to narrate her slavery experience from the point of view of the common human, with common thoughts and feelings. In the phases of girls development every female reader can recognize herself and look at the slavery from within. Every woman can imagine herself in those circumstances and understand all the hardships. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora N.
Hurston written in 1936 is also the portrayal of life African American females. The main protagonist of the story Janie Crawford is and African American woman from Eaton, Florida. Janie's third husband was bitten by a mad dog and Janie killed him in self defense. After this tragedy Janie feels compelled to search for her inner self and this search brought her to the deep study and understanding of African American culture, customs and traditions. Janie tells the story of her life to her friend Phoebe and we learn about the circumstances that brought her on the road. The story of Janie's family is typical for all African American families.
Her ancestors were born in slavery; they escaped from it or fought it. Their lives were eternal struggle because there was no peace for a black person in American South until the second half of the twentieth century. But the troubles of Janes ancestors were not bounded by discrimination of African Americans. The women in her family had to suffer all the tragic reality of feminine discrimination. This sexual discrimination took forms of rape, abuse and male dominance. The females were discriminated and they had to carry the heavy burden of this discrimination till the rest of their lives.
The sexual discriminated of females by males is also contrasted by great responsibility of women of their families and children and utter responsibility of men. Men could leave home without backward glance in search of better places while women had to stay and tend to their children. This contrast is the signal to the reader to stop, weight the facts and decide which sex was actually stronger, responsible and worthy in its nature. The theme of female sexuality is very strong in this book.
Janie's sexuality awakens in her obsession with pear tree and spring bees. This is her first aspiration for freedom and independence. But Nanny is horrified by that and insists on marriage with Joe Starks. ot a house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big road (Hurston, p. 22) Nanny expressed the common female goals: every woman has to find a husband who is capable to provide for her. And women should not even wish for spiritual closeness with her husband, mutual sexual appeal and contentment. These aspects are not irrelevant, no, they are just non existent in this society.
The marriage for woman in this society is simply the means of protection from other demanding men. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. (Hurston, p. 14) The woman is simply the beast which is helpful for the household and she has not right and not time for dreams. In Marriage Janie's sexuality is clamped by her husband. He treated his wife as a pet or object and such attitude confined Janie to her shell. But when she meets Tea Cake Woods she falls in love. This man is not decent according to common moral standards, hes a gambler and twelve years younger than Janie but he allows her to be herself, to be free in her desired, to be a woman.
This story describes womans search of her place in the world of men. Janie's marriage to Joe Starks is the example of every day reality of African American females. They get married under the influence of dreams and fairy tales but after the marriage they are greeted by harsh reality. The historical background of African American society determined that African American females were not treated decently by men. The law could not protect them from family abuse and the public opinion severely criticized divorces.
In such surrounding the woman had no other choice as to exist in misery, moral and sexual dissatisfaction. Tea Cake Woods is the symbol of all sins. By associating with such man any woman could only lower herself in the eyes of the community. Janie bound her life with Tea Cake Woods and this act was the act of utter despair, when the woman stops caring about her image and aspires for a tiny shade of happiness. Janie becomes conscious of the tyranny of the pedestal her grandmother chose for her.
Only after this process is completed does it become possible for Janie to once again become a Black woman in search of herself. (Bethel, p. 15) "He done taught me de maiden language all over. " (Hurston, p. 109) Tea Cake Woods helped Janie to understand herself and to be strong. Tea Cake Woods became her spiritual teacher, he taught her true moral values, not subdued by false shame. The madness of Tea Cake Woods and his death from Janie's hands is the symbolic freedom from men and from her spiritual teacher. Every nestling needs to experience the outer world by himself if he wants s to become an independent bird. Tea Cake Woods gave Janie her freedom, but if he stayed with her, she would never be able to taste this freedom, to try her wings. He could turn to another anchor and all her new knowledge would have been the waste.
The death of Tea Cake Woods transferred Janie to another stage of freedom, where she could act without looking behind and asking for her teachers approval. Harriet Jacobs in her book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Zora N. Hurston in her book Their Eyes Were Watching God touch the topic, which was considered shameful in their times. Linda in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl felt herself dirty when she thought that she was viewed as a sexual object and she knew that the majority of her surrounding thought the same.
Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God aspired for discovering her sexuality, but her neighbors criticized her. The authors showed in their books that some things took ugly shapes when they were forbidden and hidden in darkness. The hungry interest and shameful desire corrupted the personality and the society. By their books Harriet Jacobs and Zora N.
Hurston wanted to bring attention of the public towards the role of female sexuality in the society, they called for talking openly on that topic. The women who freed themselves of all constrain and male domination are criticized and judged by the society and the mission of these books is to defend women and to prepare the society for the fresh wave of feminism. Bibliography Abel, Elizabeth. Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation.
Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. University of California P, 1997. Anokye, Area Due. Private Thoughts, Public Voices: Letters from Zora Neale Hurston. Women 7. 2 (1996) 87 - 88 Boesenberg, Eva. Mules and Women: Gender in Mule Bone by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.
Kindermann. Monster: LIT, 1997. Enlarge Showalter, Lee Baechler, and A. Walton Like eds. Modern American Writers. New York & Toronto: Collier Books, 1993.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1990. Jacobs, Harriet Ann. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2003. Bethel, Lorraine. This Infinity of Conscious Pain: Zora Neale Hurston and the Black Female Literary Tradition. Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Harold Bloom. New York & Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. Toni Flores. Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Contemporary American Women Writers. London & New York: Longman, 1998.
Washington, Mary Helen. I Love the Way Janie Crawford Left Her Husbands: Zora Neale Hurston's Emergent Female Hero. Invented Lives. Narratives of Black Women 1860 - 1960.
New York & London: Anchor Books Doubleday, 1987. Ziegler, James B. Blossoms Blooming. 5 Dec. 2004 < web >.
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