Mary Helen Washington
"'I Love the Way Janie Crawford Left Her Husbands': Zora Neale
Hurston's Emergent Female Hero"
What two common perceptions about Their Eyes Were Watching God
does Washington refute in the first paragraph?
Explain: "Janie's relationships with men deprive her of community
and of her voice" (194).
Explain: "Her friendship with Pheoby, occurring apart from the
community, encapsulates Janie and Pheoby in a private dyad that insulates
Janie from the jealousy of other women" (194).
Explain: "When the voice of the black oral tradition is summoned
in Their Eyes, it is not used to represent the collective black
community, but to invoke and valorize the voice of the black male
Explain: "Speech does not lead Janie to power, however, but to
self-division and to further acquiescence in her status as object" (197).
Explain: "There are critical places in Their Eyes where Janie's
voice needs to be heard and is not, places where we would expect her as
the subject of the story to speak" (199).
Does Washington agree with Stepto's claim, as she paraphrases it, that
"Hurston creates only the illusion that Janie has achieved her voice" (200).
Explain. (see also footnote 12)
Explain: "[Tea Cake] exists in death in a far more mythical and
exalted way than in life" (204).
How, according to Washington, is Janie more like a heroine than a hero?
Explain: "Unable to achieve an easy integration into society .
. . , [Janie] stands on the outside and calls into question her culture's
dependence on externals, its lack of self-reflection, and its treatment
of women" (205).
Other Discussion Questions:
Explain: "As a symbol of male sexuality [especially in Jonah's Gourd
Vine], the train suggests power, dynamism, and mobility" (196).
Discuss a relevant example from Their Eyes.
Explain: "Janie Starks is almost the complete antithesis of John
Explain: "Janie's final comment that experience is more important than
words is an implicit criticism of the culture that celebrates orality to
the exclusion of inner growth" (203).