To what extent does Janie acquire her own voice and the ability to shape her own life in chapter 1-9?

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Much of the first half of Zora Neale Hurtson's Their Eyes Were Watching God is about Janie's quest to discover her own voice. In Janie's relationships with her grandmother, Logan Killicks, and Joe Starks she struggles to establish her own identity and give voice to her personal thoughts and desires. In fact, it isn't until Joe is on his deathbed that "something fell of the shelf inside of her" and she finally voices her opinion to Joe:

Dat's just whut Ah wants tuh say, Jody. You wouldn't listen. You done lived wid me for twenty years and you don't half know me atall.... Naw, you gointuh listen tuh me one time befo' you die. Have yo' way all yo' life, trample and mash down and then die ruther than tuh let yo'self heah 'bout it... Naw! Mah own mind had tuh be squeezed and crowded out tuh make room for yours in me.

The cumulative experience of all three of these relationships is to instill in Janie a desire to be heard and understood by those around her. By the end of Chapter 9 Janie has found her voice; she has found the ability to voice her opinion and make herself heard. As we read on in the novel we encounter Janie learning when and when not to use her voice and also how to use her voice for greater purposes.

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