Mrs. M Buchanan
1 October 2013
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, author Zora Hurston makes power a vital part of her novel. One character in particular, Joe Starks, stands out in his desire for power. Authority is extremely important to him and having control over those around him extends to all parts of his life. Joe’s need for command and control, and his approach to achieving both, enhances one of the underlying themes of the novel.
Joe must prove himself to the people of Eatonville if he wants to become a “big voice” (27) in the town. He starts by buying two hundred acres of land, adding to the size of the town. He builds a store and post office, and uses his wealth to command the attention and respect of the townspeople. They have neither heard of nor seen a black man as accomplished as Joe, so they elect him mayor, giving him the additional status he desires. Joe then builds a house for himself and his wife Janie, with “two stories” and painted “a gloaty, sparkly white”(44) that resembles a plantation house. Joe’s house is a symbol of his power, and it serves as a reminder of his influence within the community. Command and authority make Joe happy and are where he finds his sense of self. He feels secure when he has absolute control of a situation. Finding one’s sense of self is another major theme in the book, and Joe finds his sense of self as he manages his marriage and the town.
Joe makes Janie submit to him because he sees her as an object to be possessed and not an individual. The way he treats Janie causes conflict: “the reason for the marital conflicts between Janie and Jody is over who should control Janie's thinking”( Bernard 6). Joe believes that Janie is incapable of thinking for herself and therefore he should make her decisions. Janie, on the other hand, sees herself as a person who can make her own choices. The power Joe holds over her hurts their marriage and takes away Janie’s individualism....
Cited: Bernard, Patrick S. "The Cognitive Construction of the Self in Hurston 's Their Eyes Were Watching God." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. Purdue University Press, 2007. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.
Daran, Mahmood, and Sepideh Hozhabrsadat. "Invisibility of the I 's in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”." Academic Journals. University of Ahvaz, 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.
Hurston, Zora N. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print
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