Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jody's domineering nature building tension

(Up to chapter 7)

When we first met Jody I thought that he genuinely cared for Janie (naive maybe, but in the context of Janie's stale marriage with Logan I was hoping for a breath of fresh air). It was impossible to know  who Jody was until they got to Eatonville, and by then it was too late.

Jody didn't talk to Janie in the woods for three days because he loved her. He saw in Janie a possibility to advance himself. He saw a beautiful, proper lady... just what he pictured he would need as mayor of Eatonville (the mayor needs a stately wife). When the couple gets to Eatonville we see that he cares a lot about her image - she needs to be seen at the right places, she needs to play hostess correctly, she needs to say the right things (refrain from speaking in many cases), etc. Janie falls from a marriage that--while stale and uninteresting--was safe/stable to a marriage in which she is a prop to advance Jody's position in the community.

Janie is a part of Jody's quest for power. He is not cruel to Janie for no reason--it is just his view of the world and his quest for power that brings forth frustrated anger.

However we have begun to see the beginnings of rebellion in Janie (such as her speech at the end of chapter 6 and all the hints the narrator gives us that she was sad/tired of the marriage).

We know that Janie ends up with some guy named Tea Cake (from the prologue). It's only a matter of time until something blows, and the more egocentric that Jody becomes, the more tension is built.


  1. I definitely share some of your concerns about the quality of Jody's character, but I still have not completely given up hoping that he is not just a complete jerk. I'm starting to hope that Jody's nice at heart and is just a jerk on the surface, and is selfish but not a complete jerk. As Jody and Janie keep on getting deeper into their marriage though, I'm starting to lose more and more hope.

  2. When you said that you were hoping for Jody to be different than Logan, it reminded me of the narrator's repeated disillusionment in Invisible Man. The narrator put his faith in possibility in the reality of the likes of Bledsoe and Norton, then on being disillusioned, he put his faith in the ideology of the Brotherhood with high hopes. Something similar is happening here. Janie put her faith in love in Logan, then Joe, who represented again such infinite possibilities -- yet she is slowly becoming disillusioned about him as well, realizing that she still has not found someone she can reveal herself to. It strikes me as intriguing that the narrator seems to be searching for some fulfillment in a meaningful way to live, a system to stick to that will validate his being while Janie searches for a man to validate her dreams. I think Hurston is trying to convey something important with that and it's important to note how Janie is slowly, even if forced by circumstance, beginning to validate her own dreams as well as herself.
    On a slightly different note, I want to point out that Hurston does a good job of not depicting Jody or Logan as completely malicious characters through the moments she enters Logan or Jody's thoughts describing their hurt or pride, moments that provoke the reader to sympathize with them on a level.

  3. I think that Alice has a very good point here. Both Logan and Joe come off poorly through their actions, but by entering their minds, we see the reasons behind their actions and they become much more sympathetic. I am reminded of when this happens for Bigger in Native Son, and we see what forces have made him act how he does, and how his psyche works on a more intimate level. I can totally see why Joe talks about Janie getting old when we see that it is to hide his age from himself in a sense. The knowledge of his psyche transforms Joe from a cold-hearted meanie to someone who I have pity for, but do not forgive. Joe is, by the end of his life, really just a kind of depressing character, because his actions towards Janie are so unnecessary and cruel, but it is hard to blame him totally, because his actions come from a weakness of character. He is not mean-spirited, he just cannot face the truth of his life and hides from it by being mean.