In Their Eyes Were Watching God, what is the importance of language in the character of Janie?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Speaking and the act of speech and also the act of silence are key aspects of this compelling story, especially with regards to the character of Janie and how she journeys towards self-emancipation and empowerment. It is therefore particularly key that Jody is a character who tries to prevent Janie from talking. One place that this occurs is after his speech when he becomes mayor. This marriage fails because Jody does not allow Janie to find her voice and suppresses her individuality.

Tea Cake, by contrast, is a character who encourages her to talk and to be free with her ideas. He clearly loves and respects her for who she is and tries to encourage and nurture that identity within her. As the novel develops, and this is paralleled with Janie's own development as a character, Janie learns the value of silence and how remaining silent itself can be a source of empowerment. Throughout Janie's voyage towards discovering her own self-identity, Hurston makes it clear that language and how we use it is key to our own sense of empowerment and finding out who we are.


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