Thursday, February 19, 2009

Janie's Hair: A Symbol of Power

Sorry for posting early, but I won’t be around for the rest of vacation so yeah.

Ok so it seems like Janie’s hair is probably symbolic of numerous things within TEEWG but I am going to stay with the idea that they symbolize Janie’s power within society.

When Janie was with Joe Starks, he forced her to tied up her hair and put it under a kerchief. This was because he saw how much all the men in the area admired Janie’s hair and didn’t want her to go off with any of them. He wanted full control over Janie and in doing so took away all her power. Forcing her to put up her beautiful unique hair is symbolic of all of Joe’s condescending actions towards Janie such as sending her back into the store and not letting her take part in conversations and checkers. Once Joe passed away, Janie was able to let down her hair:

“She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then combed her hair and tied it back up again.”

Janie’s hair is what makes her unique and special in society. It is what most of the men characters notice right away about her appearance and are very attracted to it. Joe tries to take away her power and freedom by having her tie up her hair. In contrast, Teacake loves everything about Janie’s hair and gives her more freedom and adventure then she had ever had before (night fishing and sneaking out behind the rest of the town’s back) Therefore, I think that Janie’s hair represents her power and freedom within society.

*If you don't have younger siblings/babysit then my picture will not make any sense...I apologize
**Could Janie’s hair be a motif? I guess it’s hard to tell so early in the novel but if anyone wants to build on that idea I think it would be cool.

***Sorry for asking so many questions in my posts

-Erin :)


  1. I thought you outlined Janie's hair very nicely Erin. =]

    And to answer your question, yes, I think her hair is definitely a motif. You already established that it is at least a symbol. It also reoccurs many times through out, and its always the her hair (so it remains the same). Also it highlights a the theme that women do have capability and power within society. Therefore, I think it is a motif.

    Another thing, that I think is important is that it is her hair that's so beautiful. Beautiful long hair a primarily a feminine trait, which i think just reinforces women's power as opposed to men's.

  2. I also agree that her hair is a motif, and as for what it represents, I think it's power for sure, female power in particular. This book deals with a lot of different kinds of prejudice and sexism is just one more thing Janie and Eatonville have to deal with. And I love the picture Erin!

  3. Erin I agree with your argument, however you failed to mention how Janie's hair gives her confidence. It is this confidence, along with her headstrong personality, and beauty, that attracts the men. Janie's hair does not merely grant her power within society, but it also empowers HER. Her hair gives her the confidence to continue to do what she wants, thus reinforcing the feminism that Katie Osgood suggested above.

  4. Her hair is also a phallic symbol of masculine power. Because of her strong personality, she has more power than the average female. Her single, long braid "swinging well below her waist" is a symbol of the strength that transcends Janie's own sex.

    Oh yeah... I just went there.