Friday, February 20, 2009

Janie's Conflicts: Internal & External

By the end of chapter 5, I was rather surprised that Janie let herself get pushed around by her husband Joe. In particular, his dialogue at the town meeting after he is appointed the mayor flagged my interest: "Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'. She's uh woman and her place is in de home" (43). Evidently, Janie is bothered by this comment, but she fails to stand up for herself and exacerbates her helplessness by saying "Oh Jody, Ah can't do nothin' wid no store lessen youse there" (43). I understand that completely offering herself to help out with the store would also place herself under the subjugation of her husband, but the tone with which she speaks to Joe in itself screams "submissive."

When I read this particular piece of dialogue, I pictured Janie lowering her eyes and projecting less confidence after forcing herself to laugh. As Joe "strode along invested with his new dignity," he steals dignity away from his wife, leaving a cold abyss where her pride should be. Relegating her to a mere housewife and depriving her of a voice in the town meeting, Joe wields an inordinate amount of control over Janie. She is very much the damsel in distress in these early chapters, running off with Joe Starks as if he is the only one who can save her. I applaud her for leaving Logan Killicks, but at this point in the story Janie has a distorted view of marriage. She idealizes it and believes that she must come to love her husband after being married, carrying this false hope along with her even as she is married a second time. In essence, her internal conflict is her childish, naive idealistic view of the world pitted against her desire to emancipate herself from being the "mule uh de world" (14).

Clearly, Janie's conversation with Joe reveals a growing external conflict as she tells him "don't yuh think it [Joe being the Mayor] keeps us in uh kinda strain" (46)? She reminds me of a timid sidekick, whereas her husband is the overzealous superhero who will eventually meet his downfall. The only paths available to Janie to resolve her inner and outer struggles are either to accept her lifestyle as a mere trophy wife and yield to her husband's demands, or separate herself yet again from her husband to pursue an independent life.
Okay, I selected this World War II propaganda poster because I thought it exemplified Joe's attitude toward Janie. He's attempting to include Janie as part of his success, but if you think about it he's merely ordering her around. Never does Janie decide what to do with the store. Joe is left with 100% of the executive control over the store, town, AND his wife. In short, he's manipulating Janie because he views her as a follower of his interests. Even the townsfolk know that Janie would not leave him because he is a man of power and prestige. Also, look closely at the woman's smile. Doesn't it seem rather fake? When Janie admits that she has to fake a smile after her husband prevents her from speaking at the town meeting, this is the smile I pictured her to have on her face.

1 comment:

  1. Sophia, I agree with you that Janie has a distorted view of marriage. I see this with a Freudian aspect, which I'll later expand on.

    I also thought your comparison to Rosie the Riveter. was interesting. However, my take on it was the women were given limited interaction with politics in that time period, as it is. So it must have been pretty liberating to help the war effort. I know for a fact that when the war was over, and their husbands came home, and women had to go back to being housewives, many women felt extremely dissatisfied with their life. So in a way, I kind of disagree with you.