Break It Down: Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Break It Down” is a new HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems.

This week, Blog Contributor Alysha Griffin has analyzed an excerpt from Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel written by Zora Neale Hurston.

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“Naw, Ah ain’t no young gal no mo’ but den Ah ain’t no old woman neither. Ah reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah’m uh woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. This is Janie’s response to her second husband Jody Starks’s comments about her deteriorating appearance as a result of ageing. Dat’s uh whole lot more’n you kin say. You big bellies round here and put out a whole lot of brag, but ‘tain’t nothin’ to it but yo big voice. Jody’s ageing as well. Humph! Talkin’ ‘bout me lookin’ old! When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life…” A reference to menopause.

Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible. The thing that Saul’s daughter had done to David. In the Bible, Michal, Saul’s daughter, is given to David as bait. Although she took efforts to protect David, she defamed him to protect herself from Saul. But Janie had done worse, she had cast down his empty armor before men and they had laughed, would keep on laughing. Not only had Janie’s trash talking betrayed Jody, but had humiliated him in front of other men. When he paraded his possessions hereafter, they would not consider the two together. They’d look with envy at the things and pity the man that owned them. When he sat in judgment it would be the same. Good- for-nothing’s like Dave and Lum and Jim wouldn’t change place with him. For what can excuse a man in the eyes of other men for lack of strength? Because of his public “castration,” men of lower class statuses would no longer be jealous of him. Janie’s rebuttal had socially weakened him, and his wealth was not enough to sustain his manhood.