How are Janie's silence and interiority portrayed in Their Eyes Were Watching God? Find at least four quotes or pieces of evidence and explain.

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In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s interiority is portrayed as a strength and is reflective of the way she processes traumatic life crises. The story is written from Janie’s subjective point of view, which allows the reader to understand her internal experiences as she navigates love, loss, and self-revelation. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the language of male characters is not distinguished by this type of interiority, which makes a statement about the ways in which women cope with—and thrive despite—oppressive circumstances.

Janie states,

’Course, talkin’ don’t amount tuh uh hill uh beans when yuh can’t do nothin’ else ... Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there. Yo papa and yo mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.

By stating that a person has to go to God and learn about life on their own by actual lived experience, Janie shows how much she values her own autonomy and ability to make her own choices—despite what her grandmother and the townspeople believe she should do.

When speaking to Phoebe about Tea Cake’s death and the townspeople who have been gossiping about her behind her back, Janie states,

Naw, ’tain’t nothin’ lak you might think. So ’tain’t no use in me telling you somethin’ unless Ah give you de understandin’ to go ’long wid it. Unless you see de fur, a mink skin ain’t no different from a coon hide.

Janie doesn’t believe that going into the details of the traumatic event is important: it wouldn’t change the minds of people who wish to speak ill of her either way. By asserting that there’s no use in telling a story unless one is willing to explain the understanding beyond the facts, Janie shows the reader that she values lived experience more than she values the performance of this experience to others. There are some things, after all, that language just isn’t enough to explain. Janie says it best:

Ah know exactly what Ah got to tell yuh, but it’s hard to know where to start at.

When Jody is on his deathbed, Janie speaks with Phoebe about her hurt and shock that the townspeople believe that she poisoned him. While processing her hurt, she shares,

Sorrow dogged by sorrow is in mah heart.

Janie’s silence throughout her traumatic experiences is a tool she uses to process pain. Through this silence, she acknowledges that words often fall short of communicating what the body knows but language cannot quite capture.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 5, 2020
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