Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

1793 Words8 Pages
At some point in any person’s life he or she will be the victim or victimizer of stereotyping. This all too familiar aspect of society is one of the most unfortunate occurrences in life. For many, the harsh generalizations that stereotypes are based on crush the spirit of free will. Yet there are some brave people who choose to counter these stereotypes and live life as they choose, despite what judgments may come. In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character, Janie—an African American woman of the 1930’s, struggles with accepting the stereotypes that affect her life. She tries to fit in with them at the cost of her happiness and self-expression. Through her revelations and life changes that defy these…show more content…
Because Mrs. Turner cannot liberate herself from the labels her culture is given, she is unhappy and seeks to fit into the stereotypes of white culture even though this desire is unattainable; thus, prolonging her discontent with her life. Stereotypes are so damaging to culture and self-expression, not necessarily because they are false or racist, but more so because people, like Mrs. Turner, often feel obligated to fit in with a stereotype. People go to desperate measures to play the role that they feel is socially acceptable and at times will sacrifice their own happiness. Janie’s character is submissive to the stereotypes that dominate her life which in turn causes her to sacrifice her happiness and her dream of being in love. Hurston uses Janie to show her readers how harmful stereotypes are when a person follows them. Readers can witness this through Janie’s relationship with Joe Starks. When Janie is offered to make a speech Joe imposes a sexist label on her that dictates Janie’s life for the rest of their marriage. He humiliates her in front of the town saying, “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” (Hurston 43). Because Janie still has the mindset that she must do as she is told, she allows Joe’s sexist stereotype to limit her self-expression despite her discontent
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