Janie's hair is a complex symbol in Their Eyes Were Watching God. It takes on its greatest significance when she is living in Eatonville as Joe Stark's wife. Joe is the mayor of Eatonville, and even though he and Janie shared a romantic, exciting love affair at first, once Joe gains the position of power in the town, he begins to view Janie as an object. He places her on a pedestal, so she will be out of reach of the townsfolk. Jane resents Joe for this, as she wants to participate in the community's "porch-talk" and get to know her neighbors. Joe also decrees that Janie's hair must be tied up; he is motivated by jealousy because Janie has such beautiful hair that it might attract male attention.
When Joe dies, one of Janie's first acts is to take down her hair and burn the head rags in which she was forced to hide it. The narrator writes,
Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging...
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