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Feminine Voice in “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, “Their Eyes were Watching God” and “Dream Variations”

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In the novel “Their Eyes were Watching God” written by Zora Neale Hurston, feminine voice is spread throughout the novel with Janie, the protagonist, seeking natural and mutual love in a communal town. Janie lives in a small town with her grandmother, and she had three marriages with three different men. Hurston suggests that feminine voice is the patriarch which is suppressed, and the only true way for women to have a voice is through men. Women are often used as ornamentations and dehumanized because they don’t interact with the community. Despite love, violence is often misused because of masculine voice and identity. Throughout different poems, feminine voice is concealed by society as a whole or through men, but due to the pursuit of happiness and simplicity, women are able to embrace their voice and play a role in society.

Simplicity can inspire individuals to chase their voice and find their identity. For example, in “Their Eyes were Watching God,” the “doom and dawn” of life is what pushes Janie to thrive as “a great tree… left with things suffered”(Hurston 8). A tree is a plant that blooms and spreads its branches as it matures. In this case, the tree represents her flourishing from her mistakes. Janie does this in a number of ways. First off, Janie hopes to find mutual love with Logan by marrying him. Before Logan entered her life, she notices that the bees and trees have a connection and a purpose. She “felt a pain” of having no purpose, so she sought “confirmation of the voice and vision” of love (Hurston 11). Seeing as most women have the role of being a wife or mother, it appears that Janie believed marrying Logan would allow her to have an identity in society. Although, Logan is the notion of love, he is old and weak. Janie has “de land and everything” because of Logan (Hurston 10). Since Janie has everything she could possibly need, her life appears to be simple. At the same time, Janie is considered a piece of decoration proving that her identity and voice was still through the man in her life, Logan. Therefore, Janie wants to pursue her dream by having a voice that isn’t through men. In order to do this, she becomes “limp and languid,” sexually awakened, and was “looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience” to find out more, like a normal curious woman (Hurston 11). Hurston argues that mutual love is found through men by using a feminine voice to reveal identity. Although, it is found with the willingness to try new things. Janie is struggling for power because she is replaced as an object. She tries to attract Joe with her femininity with “the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist”, but Joe tells her not to show it and makes her ashamed of her sexuality (Hurston 2). This pushed her to seek new opportunities and to be involved in the community. Simplicity can lead the way to help pursue a dream by the creation of a voice.

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In a poem written by Langston Hughes called “Dream Variations” opportunity is represented throughout the dreams of African Americans who pursued their voices and shared their opinions. Hughes expressed his wish for a carefree lifestyle from color expulsion and racial favoritism. In the novel by Hurston, she argues that people didn’t work for free and that they were just dehumanized through the use of a symbol. The horizon is a symbol for hope and dreams for women. Men typically have a higher social status in the community, so when Hughes says ‘for others they sail forever on the horizon’ he is insinuating that women may not reach this status but hold on to their hopes and dreams of doing so. Alain Locke argues against Hurston’s work by saying that the community is “seizing upons its first chances for group expression and self-determination” (Locke 987). He believes that women have a voice through “cultural recognition” (Locke 993). Locke contributed to feminine voice by creating a diversion against the new version of opportunity set upon the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston uses language such as, “tongueless, earless, eyeless” to group the colored people in her community as one voice or identity. Hurston enriches the black community by portraying the female voice as unrecognized and being only seekable by men. In “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, Zora Neale Hurston talks about the “front porch” being a “gallery seat for me [her]” (Hurston 1). The porch portrays a place where the community members could relax, get away from work, and gossip about other people in the town. Georgia Douglas Johnson writes “An Autumn Love Cycle”, to show “a genuine authenticity and sincerity of emotion” and “the sentimentalization of a man-made tradition” (Johnson 1). Men constantly have control over women because they are embracing there insecurity and anger against women. Feminine voice can be concealed through the use of a community or cultural voice.

The consistent violence exposed on women throughout the novel originated from the hatred that stirs in men who felt challenged. For example, Joe Starks and Tea Cake beat Janie, and said “When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life” (Hurston 79). This showed that the men were angry and insecure, so they unleashed their hatred towards women. Janie was supposed to represent the wife who prepared dinner, but she wanted to have a voice. In another part of the novel, Walter Thomas was thinking about killing wifes, so Janie stepped up and developed a voice for other women and herself. Her concept of God and men is to create destiny and destroy the cycle of opportunity created for men by men. For instance, Joe died because he was shocked and lost control of what Janie had “robbed him of delusion” with her pursuit of happiness (Hurston 78). In “Yet Do I Marvel”, written by Countee Cullen, he writes about the power of God in affinity to the lives of animals and humans. Hurston adds to this by comparing colored women to mules, showing that they are the “lords of sounds” since men don’t occupy them as much (Hurston 1). Virility was composed by Joe when he bought the mule to represent his prosperity. After, Janie gives a good speech with “just the right words to thoughts” (Hurston 58). Hambo spoke up and said Janie had access to the community’s minds with a deeper level of voice that’s unique by stating, “Yo’ wife is uh born orator”(Hurston 58). Joe was dehumanizing her by her interaction and engagement of being surrounded by the community. He did this by not letting her go to the mule’s funeral go isolate her from the town. After Joe died, Janie was denying her true self, and lets down her hair by embracing her femininity, but she puts it back up by her own will. Janie feels “doom and dawn” because she got freedom, and started sitting on the porch once again (Hurston 8). The unleashment of hatred towards women is often hidden.

Zora Neale Hurston believes that feminine voice is found through men and violence. Feminine voice is truly found by experience, communication, and the non-subjugation of women. Janie has been through three different men that taught her valuable lessons. She experienced new things as she sought to find out more about her sexuality. The involvement in a community can help you find a voice. Janie went through ups and downs throughout the novel, and sought new opportunities that lead her to finding her spot in the town. Mutual love isn’t created rapidly. It gradually gets strong like the sea because it changes and is different like each shore.

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Feminine Voice in “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, “Their Eyes were Watching God” and “Dream Variations”. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/feminine-voice-in-how-it-feels-to-be-colored-me-their-eyes-were-watching-god-and-dream-variations/
“Feminine Voice in “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, “Their Eyes were Watching God” and “Dream Variations”.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/feminine-voice-in-how-it-feels-to-be-colored-me-their-eyes-were-watching-god-and-dream-variations/
Feminine Voice in “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, “Their Eyes were Watching God” and “Dream Variations”. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/feminine-voice-in-how-it-feels-to-be-colored-me-their-eyes-were-watching-god-and-dream-variations/> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2022].
Feminine Voice in “How it Feels to be Colored Me”, “Their Eyes were Watching God” and “Dream Variations” [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2022 Dec 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/feminine-voice-in-how-it-feels-to-be-colored-me-their-eyes-were-watching-god-and-dream-variations/
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