Negativity Of African American Men In Research Papers Example
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD
Hurston has written a novel in which a woman tries to tell a man's story, but ends up telling a woman's story in spite of herself. It thus becomes clear that the female mode of autobiography subsumes the male mode by undercutting its metaphors in the same way that Janie undercuts her husbands' metaphors and in the same way that the narrator undercuts Janie's (James Krasner125).
The above quotation mentions the name Janie (Janie Crawford), the protagonist of the novel Their Eyes were Watching God, authored by the renowned African American novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston. The whole novel revolves around Janie’s quest for identity and spiritual enlightenment. The novel describes three significant periods in the life of Janie, corresponding to her nuptial life with three different men, Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Vergible Woods (Tea Cake).
“Ships at a distance have every man’s 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 away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men” (Zora Neale Hurston 1).
The opening lines of the novel refer to the African American men who try to escape the segregation and discrimination that damaged him psychologically. Hurston reflects the negative tendencies possessed by the African American men and even believes that these men are highly influenced and affected by their negative pasts. She rather takes a positive step by showcasing the African American men’s negativity that helps them improve their perspectives for the good about themselves and those around them. The present paper attempts to explore the the three male presence in the novel and their sense of negativity that refers to not a peculiar, but a social issue.
It is impossible to trace the negativity in men without an analysis of the protagonist, Janie and her relationship with these men. Hurston embodies the power in Janie that enables her to destroy the men physically and psychologically. Janie’s choices of husbands are simply out of her unfavorable father figure and she looks for a perfect match who can be a friend, mentor, and guide. As we confront Janie, she has already experienced three marriages, and her third husband Vergible Woods (Tea Cake) has died. The death or destruction of the three husbands gives a sense of liberty to Janie who transforms magnificently through traumas. The married life and related experiences make Janie a resilient woman who learns ultimately to stand and stare.
Janie marries Logan Killicks out of Nanny’s pressure. Nancy confirms, “‘Ah wanted yuh to school out and pick from a higher bush and a sweeter berry. But dat ain’t yo’ idea Ah see’ ‘Brother Logan Killicks. He’s a good man ’” (Hurston 13). Janie tries to love Logan and be a responsible wife to him, but realizes that he slew any balminess or affection she was trying to sense in the marriage. Logan’s character is best revealed through the words of Janie:“‘[s]ome folks never was meant to be loved and he’s oneof ‘em Ah hates de way his head is so long one way and so flat on de sides His belly is too big He don’t even never mention nothin’ pretty Ah wants things sweet wid my marriage ’” (Hurston 24). Janie’s sense of exhaustion forces her to leave Logan without any notice, thereby disturbing and shattering him emotionally. Nanny’s chooses Logan purely hoping out of the fact that “Killicks, with his wealth, will not feel the need to do this to her granddaughter. Unfor- tunately, this is just what Killicks at- tempts, and, as a result, Janie rejects him” (Maria J. Racine 284). The attitude of Logan is not a reflexive one and can be seen as a product of the hardships and struggles he had to endure in his life time. Janie fails to comprehend Logan and abandons him without a second thought.
Janie meets Joe Starks, who stands contrary to Logan at the beginning. Hurston portrays Starks as an enthusiastic, vibrant young man whose encouraging words influence Janie to the most:
You behind a plow! You ain't got no mo' business wid uh plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday! You ain't got no business cuttin' up no seed p'taters neither. A pretty doll-baby lak you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo'self and eat p'taters dat other folks plant just special for you (Hurston 28).
But Joe, similar to Logan is mostly concerned with assets, esteem, and safety as these signify his notion of altering and governing his life. He desires a typical wife who stays at home and helps him in his store. He negates Janie, getting involved in public matters and voicing herself at any cost. His negativity is visible when he says:
Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'. Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home." Janie made her face laugh after a short pause, but it wasn't too easy. It must have been the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another that took the bloom off of things (Hurston 40-41).
Joe tries to give all comforts to his wife, but his actions turn to be that of an autocrat when he starts criticizing Janie and tries to remove her from society, just like Logan. Joe’s insolence reverses Janie and she emerges a strong woman who verbally assaults Joe. After Joe’s death, Janie unbound her hair that symbolizes her emancipation from the unenlightened life.
Vergible Woods (Tea Cake) is the next person who marries Janie and his passionate and intense love influences her, who falls head over heels in love with him. His unsound economy stands no hindrance in their love, as he has successfully swayed Janie both emotionally and physically. Maria J. Rasine points out:“Janie falls in love with Tea Cake because, unlike her previous, restrictive male companions, who sought to silence Janie's true feelings, Tea Cake does not expect her to act in a specific manner that is designed to make him look good” (288). Tea Cake and Janie leads a perfect life for sometime, but Tea Cake too beats her for stamping his authority and male supremacy.
Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her be- havior had justified his jealousy, but it relieved tat awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beatingat all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss (140).
The episodes of beating requires that splits the relationship and the male violence and brutality is seen as a communal tolerable manifestation of ungenerous love and power. Tea Cake’s act can be regarded as of apathetic vehemence proposed to display the degree of his right over Janie. Tea Cake, like other two males, fails to express his thoughts to Janie and even Janie fails to give voice to her mental thoughts and notions. His silence and male hierarchical conduct cost him his life. Janie shoots him and announces her ability of self- defense. Hurston adds jealousy to the persona of Tea Cake that makes him a typical African American man.
Hurston’s portrayal of the three husbands of Janie do not alone reflect the sense of negativity as present in the African American males, but also posits the consequences of their actions. The three men loves Janie in three different ways and their stereotypical view results in their setbacks. Though Tea Cake offers her peace and illumination, even his irresistible macho behaviour disturbs the harmony. Hurston is careful enough not to disclose the African American male in poor light, but rather exemplifies the reasons for their implied defiance. Jeanette Darden asserts:
They struggle with the negative tendencies because of oppression and because they are often their own worst enemy. Too many African American men are downtrodden, and it started a long time ago. I believe that the African American man, to an extent, struggles with the psychological effects of being oppressed today, and no one has taught him how to deal with oppression he faces. Therefore, his moral character shapes the lives of his sons because he does not know how to tell his sons how to deal with the negative tendencies he has and or negative experiences he faces (64).
Ann Ferguson, Sally. "Folkloric En and Female Rowth in Their Yes Were Watching Od." JSTOR. St. Louis University. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/29028>.
Chinn, Nancy. "Like Love, A Movin Thing: Janie's Search for Self and God in Their Eyes Were Watching God." JSTOR. South Atlantic Modern Language Association. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/320014>.
Darden, Jeanette. "A Rationale for the African American Man’s Destruction in Alice Walker’s Third Life of Grange Copeland and The Color Purple and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God." Thesis. Print.
Krasner, James. "The Life of Women: Zora Neale Hurston and Female Autobiography." JSTOR. St. Louis University. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2903995>.
Hull, Gloria T. All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies. Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist, 1982. Print.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.
J. Rasine, Maria. "Voice and Interiority in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God." JSTOR. Indiana State University. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3042000>.
R. Marks, Onald. "Se, Violence, and Rganic Consciousness in Zora Neale Hurstons Their Yes Were Watching Od." JSTOR. St. Louis University. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2902>.
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