Thursday, September 1, 2016

Janie's Face

Just polished up my glasses and now it is time to blog. It is amazing how dirty glasses get throughout the day. I try not to touch them and still...

Several times throughout the novel, Hurston refers to her main character as "Janie's Face," or spends time describing Janie's face. Here is one notable passage after Jody passes away.

"Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil. It was like a wall of stone and steel. The funeral was going on outside. All things concerning death and burial were said and done. Finish. End. Never-more. Darkness. Deep hole. Dissolution. Eternity. Weeping and wailing outside. Inside the expensive black folds were resurrection and life. She did not reach outside for anything, nor did the things of death reach inside to disturb her calm. She sent her face to Joe's funeral, and herself went rollicking with the springtime across the world."
And here is another one from earlier in the novel:
"The years took all the fight out of Janie's face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul. No matter what Jody did, she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave some. She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels. Sometimes she stuck out into the future, imagining her life different from what it was. But mostly she lived between her hat and her heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods--come and gone with the sun. She got nothing from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving away what she didn't value."
As I was reading Their Eyes were Watching God I noticed these phrases peppered throughout the novel and wondered about their importance. It wasn't until I got to the the end of the novel that I figured it out. Well, I think I figured it out. The story of Janie is a story of a woman who is forced to follow societies norms for women at the time. Janie doesn't want to marry, she doesn't want to keep house. But the worst part is that Janie doesn't know initially that she doesn't want these things. She is just going along with the flow. She marries her first husband because her grandmother expects it and society expects it. She marries Jody because it seems like a good choice based off of societies expectations. in these first two marriages that phrase "Janie's face" crops up. She isn't a whole person. She puts on an act for the people around her: playing the part of the dutiful wife. Society expects her to be dumb, and submissive, and not play checkers and so she puts her face on, just like any woman would put on makeup in the morning. It's a mask. 

But after Jody's death, Janie is finally able to take that mask off when she hooks up with Tea Cake. No more expectations because Janie just doesn't care anymore. And that is where the phrase "Janie's face" disappears because she isn't "Janie's face" anymore, she is just Janie.

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