Friday, February 13, 2009

Characterization - Janie

I found Janie to be extremely inspiring in Chapter 1. She is a multifaceted, independent woman that is free from the oppressing reigns of society.

From the very beginning, the reader hears a variety of slanderous comments against Janie, from criticisms of her overalls and to her affair with a younger man. Hurston mounts all of these objections against Janie, setting up a situation in which Janie can either look weak and subservient, or look independent and powerful. So, when Hurston describes, "...she kept walking straight on to her gate. The porch couldn't talk for looking." (2), Janie is characterized as an extremely strong and independent woman because amount of gossip seem to bring Janie down. In another way that Hurston characterizes Janie as stronger than the average 1930s woman is by the way that Janie is dressed when she comes into town. Janie is wearing old overalls, which is a clearly masculine attire.

Janie is also characterized as very mysterious when she makes her suprise appearance to Eatonville. At first, Hurston does not even mention Janie by her name. Rather, she describes Janie as "the woman" (2) that made the townsfolk remember their pent-up jealousy. By doing this, the reader becomes curious to see who this woman actually is and why the townspeople are so envious of her. Then Hurston goes on to describe Janie's physical characteristics, making Janie seem like a rebel persona from the movies. Of course, the gossip mongers' reactions also increase Janie's mysteriousness because "nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to swallow spit until after the gate slammed behind her." (2).

A different side of Janie is revealed when Phoeby talks with her about her experiences. Janie becomes warm and less harsh, praising Phoeby's cooking. among other things. Through the various elements in Chapter 1, Hurston characterizes Janie as a strong, independent, mysterious woman who is not devoid of compassion or feeling.

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