Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beating Janie: a motif

Throughout this novel, Janie has been beaten by her husband many times. Each time she was beaten, it was as if her husband was putting her in her "rightful place". A beating symbolized male power and female weakness. Janie was beaten by both Joe and Tea Cake. Both times that she was beaten, it was because her husband felt threatened by a show of power.

Joe was anrgy that Janie talked back to him and that she was not being the proper, obedient wife that he thought she should be. When Janie embarassed him in front of his townspeople, Joe was so threatened by her, that he slapped her to put her back in her "rightful place". "And the cruel deceit of Janie! Making all that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. Joe Starks didn't know the words for this, but he knew the feeling. So he struck Janie with all his might and drove her from the store." This shows how threatened Joe felt when Janie stood up for herself and talked back to Joe. He was so angered by this, that he felt that he had to slap her in front of everyone, to show that he was still in control.

Tea Cake felt threatened because he was worried that Janie would run off with Mrs. Turner's brother. He beat Janie to show her that he was in charge and that she had better not disobey him. "Before the week was over, he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in posession." Tea Cake had no reason to whip Janie. He whipped her because he felt that he had to reassert his posession of her. This is similar to why Joe slapped Janie because in both cases, this action was caused by the male figure feeling threatened in some way by Janie.

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