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Their Eyes Were Watching God Essay

1356 words - 6 pages

Janie finds her way out when Joe Starks appears. The first thing Joe does after asking for a drink of water is to name himself: "Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through Georgy" (47). Hurston's naming of Starks is ironic for several reasons. The word stark is often used as a synonym for barren, and Joe Starks and Janie never have any children. Hurston hints at sexual problems that develop between the pair because of their separate beds and Janie's eventual verbal "castration" of Joe in the store. Starks's name is also ironic because of his focus on capitalistic pursuits. Starks's wealth gives him a false sense of power because the townspeople resent him and the things he ...view middle of the document...

Because Janie associates marriage with her experience under the pear tree, she allows Nanny to arrange for her first legal name change to Mrs. Logan Killicks. Killicks's name is ironic, for his relationship to Janie quickly "kills" her definition of marriage: "She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman- (44). With Killicks, Janie also learns more about the power associated with names. When they argue about her doing outside work in their yard, she calls him "'Mist' Killicks,'" a name which ironically reflects his attempt to be her master. He, on the other hand, calls her "'LilBit,'" a name which reveals her position of powerlessness in his mind. Logan Killicks finally goes too far when he associates Janie with a second mule for working in the fields. Janie knows from Nanny's narrative that the mule has the least powerful position, and she knows that is not what she wants.

Janie finds her way out when Joe Starks appears. The first thing Joe does after asking for a drink of water is to name himself: "Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through Georgy" (47). Hurston's naming of Starks is ironic for several reasons. The word stark is often used as a synonym for barren, and Joe Starks and Janie never have any children. Hurston hints at sexual problems that develop between the pair because of their separate beds and Janie's eventual verbal "castration" of Joe in the store. Starks's name is also ironic because of his focus on capitalistic pursuits. Starks's wealth gives him a false sense of power because the townspeople resent him and the things he does to gain his wealth. Starks's name could also be seen as a comment on his desire to be a "big voice." As Janie eventually finds out, there is not much behindOnce Joe is officially named mayor, Janie becomes "Mrs. Mayor Starks." Unfortunately, the power that Joe readily adopts with his new name is not meant to be shared with Janie. Her name simply becomes a reflection of the new power of Joe. When the townspeople ask "Mrs. Mayor Starks" to make a speech, Joe cuts in: "'Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'. Ah never married her for nothin' lak cat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home'"(69). John Callahan points out that Joe views Janie as his "appendage" (102). Joe says, "'Ah told you in de very first beginnin' dat Ah aimed tuh be uh big voice. You oughta be glad, 'cause dat makes uh big woman outa you'" (74). Joe reasons that because he loves being Mr. Mayor, Janie should gratefully accept the name and identity of Mrs. Mayor (Callahan 102). Joe does not understand that Janie...

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