Twisted Governments, Characters, and Intentions: The Tempest

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We began our talk of The Tempest with some much needed plot clarification as this is one convoluted story. Prospero (the rightful Duke of Milan), Miranda (his daughter), Caliban (his slave) and Ariel (a spirit he freed, also a slave) have been together on this uninhabited island for 12 years or so. Prospero and his daughter were shipwrecked here, but don’t seem to have intentions to leave which we discussed in class as a bizarre choice. Caliban was born on the island to the witch Sycorax, who was sentenced to death but couldn’t be executed because she was pregnant. So she was exiled to the island. Antonio (Prospero’s brother) and his gang of ignorant misfits are now shipwrecked on the island as well, thanks to Prospero’s magic. The final plot point I would like to make is Antonio usurped his brother Prospero as the Duke of Milan, and Prospero left the situation only to be marooned on this island and now is seeking revenge.

We hit a range of topics regarding the story and its characters. In this protokoll, I would like to discuss the three kinds of government that are found on this island and the notion of a hierarchy. Government and politics is something we cannot get away from, even in a story of a shipwreck on an inhabited island. This was something I did not see right away but was appreciative that it was brought to the attention of the class. I would also like to discuss Miranda’s role in this play and the power dynamics that exist between Prospero and his slaves. It is interesting to see how Ariel wants more agency and to be completely free, while Caliban is fine with just having a new master.

The idea of a hierarchy on the island is an interesting one I would like to explore as I believe it is Shakespeare demonstrating that even in a dire situation people will perhaps try to work together, but struggle or even manipulate others to achieve power. All of our readings so far have had this theme of a hierarchy being created. In Arabian Nights, the hierarchy was of the royals and their subjects as well and men and women, but women had a way of finding power in an unexpected way. In The Canterbury Tales, the author harshly judged many of the characters, but we could also create a hierarchy in that text of the different professions and beyond that the gender dynamics were something we explored at length. Women and their strength was also an interesting point in these tales. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies as well as The Battle over Free Will, God is at the top of the hierarchy. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies a hierarchy of women is created as Pizan addresses women from all walks of life, giving them life advice while ranking them in the process. All these texts mentioned had a lot of people in mind regarding the hierarchy that was established so I ask, who is there to even rule on this island?

In terms of ruling people, Machiavelli had very forceful points about how to rule, but the way that Antonio talks isn’t reminiscent of a thirsty power grab. He already achieved that by throwing his brother from his rightful place. It feels more like a sense of entitlement and pretentiousness that propels his discussion and that of his gang what kind of power they will gain while on this island. The three types of government that were brought to light were: Machiavellian – Stephano with his wine, hedonism – Gonzalo with power politics, and Prospero with restoring the kingdom through marriage. Is the idea of creating this system easier because they can start fresh and build upon it due to the lack of people here? From this question I think of the process of colonization due to Prospero wanting control of the spirit and the person that was there before he was. The two that must suffer as a result are Caliban and Ariel, although interestingly, only Ariel seeks freedom.

Caliban and Ariel are the two (person and spirit) that were there previously to Prospero. It seems very unjust to automatically wish to enslave people or spirits upon arriving at a new place. Through history, we see this behavior of conquering, so while unjust it is not surprising. In class, there was talk of the defiance of both Caliban and Ariel in subtle ways but I do not see that happening in this play. While they can push against their master, they must ultimately submit to his wishes. There are two different people here to consider and they want different things from their lives. Caliban is disobedient to Prospero but when Antonio and his gang appear, Caliban seems oddly willing to having some new masters that aren’t any better than Prospero. Ariel, in contrast, was freed from a tree that Sycorax locked him in, and Prospero is really milking that situation unfairly. Ariel wants true freedom but Prospero wants Ariel to continue doing tasks for him and reminds Ariel how he freed him. Another point to consider is that both the slaves are grateful to the master, one for all he learned from Prospero, and the other for being freed. As the story unfolds, we will see how these two characters develop further and we shall see about Caliban’s ridiculous idea to attack Prospero with his new masters. Another character connected to Prospero is his daughter, Miranda.

Miranda is the only female character we encounter and she is intriguing. She is Prospero’s daughter but she seems to have a sense of strength about her. She is inquisitive and curious about what brought her and her father to this island. She is the first to speak in the play before her father, and I wondered if that had any significance in the play or if it was an arbitrary fact that I noticed. Miranda could have developed far more as a character, but upon seeing Ferdinand the only man she had ever seen in her life, she becomes overwhelmed with love and he does as well. I wonder if her father is creating this forbidden love story so they fall more in love is to help her, or if it is his way of maintaining control over her like he does over his slaves. If Ferdinand did not come, I would be curious to see what kind of character Miranda would become. It seems like she was a strong character, until she finds love. Then, she becomes a slave to that love. That concept is particularly interesting because Dido is referred to in the play, and she is a goddess that also was very powerful, until her love for Aeanus and his abandonment of her destroyed her in The Aeneid. Hopefully, there is a happier ending for Miranda. Given this is a Shakespearean comedy I have a hunch that things will work out just fine for Miranda. It seems to be a running theme that when a woman has agency, she loses it, blinded by love. In the conclusion of this play, we have to see what will become of her love and of Caliban’s foolish plan, as well as the building of a hierarchy as the play progresses. What will be the outcome for Prospero’s plans and will Ariel be free? There is a lot to resolve but there are three acts remaining so I have faith Shakespeare will accomplish just that. Perhaps, Miranda will continue to be a strong character despite her new found love.

Silent No More : The Atrocities against Women must Stop!

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When the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Al Moore, and Charlie Rose (to name the four recent men) came out in the news, it shocked me to my core and make me openly weep as the news continued to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I screamed “why” so loudly but could barely speak. It frightened the people at home, but I was in so much horrible emotional pain so bad that my soul was on fire and my heart was drowning in agony. Up until this time Kevin Spacey was my favorite actor, and I was trying to finish season 5 of house of cards. Charlie Rose was a journalist I greatly admired. Harvey Weinstein created my favorite show: Project Runway. I haven’t heard of Al Moore but the notion of him running for a Senator representing our country is so wrong it makes me want to vomit.

Now besides punishment I strongly believe we have to first address and speak about the crime: rape and sexual harassment against women. The flood gates for victims to come forward have opened but that does not change what happened. Perhaps being able to speak about it helps ease the burden but I cannot imagine what that kind of experience does to a woman’s mind, spirit, and heart. My heart is completely broken and it didn’t happen to me. But it happened to millions of woman and continues to happen. Our president has bragged about groping women by saying “I say grab them by the *****” and was still elected despite his vile comments to multiple women including journalists and even attacking wives of fellow candidates. It makes me sick. Physically sick to think he is our president. The hunting grounds explored sexual assault on College campuses and I wouldn’t watch it because I was afraid. Now I’m disgusted with myself for not facing the truth in our society- sexual misconduct, violence, rape, and mistreatment of women is an epidemic that needs treatment.

Kevin Spacey was my favorite actor. Was. The movie Baby Driver was my favorite of the summer. But instead of thinking what I’m losing which is some movies and TV shows, thinking about what his victims lost is far more painful. I openly sob because I don’t know how to make this horrific action stop. I cannot stop it alone. We have to address the behavior causing agony to millions. And we must stop saying what they said in the case of Charlie Rose “that was Charlie being Charlie” is a direct quote. How can we say boys will be boys? So are we normalizing very despicable behavior? Yes, and THAT needs to stop. IT NEEDS TO STOP! STOP SAYING BOYS WILL BE BOYS!

When I lived in an apartment in the city I recall not feeling well and running to the store to buy milk to make my beloved coffee. The whole time I was alone until stepping back into my apartment, I was afraid of someone male attacking me since I was a young woman alone in the evening. That’s how bad it’s gotten in our society and in every society. It’s to a point where I am scared to buy milk. Isn’t that depressing? Isn’t that despicable?

Let’s not get away from the main point here, that sexual assault and harassment happens all the time and is actually very under-reported because women are scared to come forward. I was scared too.

I have never told anyone my story but I want to share it now to help others.

When I said it didn’t happen to me, I wasn’t being honest because I’ve never told a soul. Here goes:

We were all coming in from gym class my freshman year of high school. I was the fastest runner of the girls so I was fair ahead with the boys running inside to change before the bell rang. I turned around to see if I could see any of the my friends that were girls and that’s when he stopped running and grabbed me. He grabbed me and he tugged at me. The front of my uniform was so thin that the feeling was so horrific that I nearly passed out from shock. What I remember is him laughing and then running away. His friends laughed too. That laughter is still in my nightmares 15 years later. I ran so fast I beat everyone to the doors (we were playing softball and coming inside to change) and I blocked out the entire event. Never told a soul.

I’ve had my butt grabbed twice by men in public, once at a party and once at a bar. At the bar I didn’t speak out but at the party I screamed at that man, and I told everyone what he had done. Thinking about all this makes me come undone because I’ve always been afraid of intimate moments since that day when I was grabbed without wanting it. I didn’t want it.

There needs to be an outcry for change to stop this atrocity from continuing. Education is part of the answer. Normalization of the behavior just flat out needs to stop. I want to say to every victim that you are not alone and that you are a wonderful woman with value and people that love you. To Kevin Spacey and all the other men I named, those I didn’t, and to our president – you are absolutely vile, repulsive, and should be deeply ashamed of yourselves. It’s unacceptable, and it’s going to have to be stopped because the affects are devastating. I urge everyone to think twice before and please consider your actions that can change and destroy another life, another heart forever.

Gender Power Dymanics Traced in Two Novels

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Throughout The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Great Gatsby we have strong themes regarding gender both the way the male and female is depicted in these two novels. Woman morph drastically while men continue in this hunt for success, greatness, and status. The curious thing to remember is that these novels are brought to us at different times so the way women are portrayed is drastically different in the two novels. In The Rise of Silas Lapham, the ideal woman is what is desirable at the current times. To stay and tend the house and the child, to not really have a thought of your own, these are traits of the “Ideal Woman”. Irene Lapham has mastered the traits and even cleans up the house when stressed, solidifying her role as “ideal” along with her behavior and most important the way her mind appears to work through interactions with Tom Corey and the nonchalant way she acts but really she is in this dreamy fairy tale in her mind over silly things such a a newspaper that was not actually sent to her. She behaves irrationally and this shows the woman of the 19th century quite clearly.
However, we have an exception in Penelope Lapham who gives a glimpse of the New Woman, found to be better traced later in The Great Gatsby. She is not understood nor accepted at this time in literature by other characters or the world as we know it. She is strongly the opposite of her sister because she displays her views clearly. She reads and articulates her position on things in a witty manner that is found quite charming similar to or even better in some instances than the ladies of The Great Gatsby. She is strong and sticks to her guns, something I value and appreciate. I see a lot of Pen in myself and it makes me smile knowing that a character has the ability to drastically change the course of a novel, without drastically changing who she is. Penelope is ahead of her time, a trailblazer. So this New Woman, who is she and what does she do compared to the Ideal woman of the 19th century?
Well, Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker are two new women. They have opinions about everything under the sun. They do not have to stay in the house and raise children, as women in Silas Lapham were expected to do. In fact, a nurse takes care of Daisy’s daughter, and the women are free to come and go as they please. Scandalous! Jordan is not married and it is not made a big deal in the book at all. It is almost surreal the amount of power they have over their own destiny compared with those woman in Silas Lapham who seem doomed to a fate worse than death- a life without freedom. One curious similarity is that in the upper crust for example the Lapham sisters and Jordan and Daisy sit around doing nothing. They still aren’t accepted to be productive and have a job and contribute which is ironic. The men still hold much of the power although that changes a bit in The Great Gatsby.
It is found that one cannot discuss gender especially the male gender without comparing class as well. Silas Lapham and Jay Gatsby both curiously come from new money. Silas works very hard to build his paint company up from nothing but does not hide his past. Silas is not an actor or performer because he has no desire to hide things and wants to be someone just become a man of status. Although he has the money, more in fact then the Coreys do, he does not have that status nor does he know how to behave in order to reach that status. Old clothes and gaudy paintings are among the items purchased by Silas and his family. Gatsby however, has it figured out down to the tiniest detail. The irony is that Silas has a wife and two children to help him but since they do not know how to act or perform in this upper crust it all eventually collapses. It collapses for Mr. Gatsby as well but for different reasons…
Gatsby is a master of the act or performance of a man of status. Sure, people have all sorts of opinions of him but that is true of the Laphams as well. The Coreys have a questionable opinion of them as well. Back on Gatsby, there is this magnificent house he owns where lavish parties are thrown and people who do not even get a invitation come to bask in the glory that is these parties, experiences where you yourself can put on a performance. His library is real, although never used it is created in such a way that everybody notices, this Gatsby is a man of class. He wears pink suits and drives extremely flashy cars. He pulls it off in a way that Silas Lapham never could. The secret, he has been performing since he was a child, almost preparing for this moment. He has been preparing for being everyone except his real self for so long that it is felt that his real self is lost in translation somehow. Silas was a poor country boy who with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease became rich. He does not act, but rules through shady business practices and a rival paint company that destroy him. So, what can be said about the male race? Well, they are in a constant hunt to be ahead to attain status. The goal is to be somebody but more important to have others believe that you are somebody of value to society. Gatsby achieves that, but the goal behind his performance never comes into fruition. As a man in either novel, you must present a good example for those around and provide for your family. Perhaps Gatsby’s ultimate performance was not one single person really knew him 100%, not even his own father. If he had stopped this delusion he could have lived a happier life and attained a wife and children. He just had to want what he couldn’t have. That was his downfall. In terms of gender, the men in these two novels are extremely opinionated and headstrong. It is the downfall of Silas and Gatsby to be so stubborn. The man must however, protect his nestegg. That is what they tried in vain to do.

Women’s Agency in The Aeneid

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In our discussion of The Aeneid, we talked of the distinct way law appears, Fate, Aeneas’ character, a history of the text, women’s role, Roman rule, and an array of other things. A swerve was discussed in reference to creation of the powerful Roman Empire. While I found many parts of our discussion moving and interesting, the real “swerve” or turning point I find is the way women are depicted in this text compared to all others we have encountered, particularly in The Iliad. In stark constant to the Iliad, women in The Aeneid have a voice, affect change, rule a city, and dare I say have agency. Perhaps it is the hundreds of years between these two texts that cause this incredible change to be possible. I would argue that Virgil sees women’s value in a way Homer never considered. Virgil gives woman not quite the credit due to them, but a generous, commendable effort was made to give some much needed balance. His language being more romantic as pointed out in class, I believe gives the necessary condition for a huge shift in the treatment and portrayal of women. The language of the other text was fitting for the amount of male influence, while this style of writing may be what allowed for women to be involved in a way we haven’t encountered very much in the scope of the class.

In the Iliad, Helen was blamed for so much while the “wonderful, handsome” men were constantly sidetracked with avenging someone or being petty and angry. It seemed that within certain codes, men could do no wrong, and the massive slaughters committed were for the good of the people. It was almost like a running joke to me (the condemnation of Helen), as Helen did not actively choose to leave but was stolen, and while the men carry on in a bloodbath whose purpose I question as well. It then becomes so easy to blame a woman’s “terrible beauty” for an entire war. Furthermore, the few times she spoke added only to the hopelessness of her situation. It was as if by giving her a voice, she negated her own value even more, and her voice only empathized her lack of agency. In the Aeneid, it is flat out said that Helen shouldn’t be blamed for the war and that the true blame for that situation lies with the gods. The implications of such a concept being brought forth are immense. All through the Iliad, the gods dashed around impulsively like teenagers, and there was no real consequence for them. Here we have a truth that many students have pointed out and questioned countless times. The gods’ role in Fate and in the action of the texts is huge, but is just now being acknowledged as a point of concern by Virgil.

A female goddess who is treated very differently in these two texts is Hera, so much that the term “New Hera” was coined during our discussion. Hera, while cunning and conniving throughout The Iliad, is passed over as an irrational angry women whose ideas aren’t valued. Zeus admits to being afraid of his wife, but the limit of what say she has, even as a goddess is rage inducing. It is interesting to trace a female god, and Juno (or Hera) as an example of this shift in women’s agency within the two texts. Interestingly, in The Aeneid, although “New Hera” shows her action through a masculine-like rage, there is a greater question I consider. I do not buy that Hera (or Juno) was acting particularly masculine. She was acting in a way that fueled events that were to come. Yes, all people previously behaving in this way were men. Achilles was synonymous with rage almost throughout The Iliad, as was Ares God of War. It’s as if women are not permitted to have this level of power, and so Juno’s rage on the first page of Virgil’s text is jolting. I would argue that character traits being ascribed to men such as rage and power are unisex traits. Women can be powerful, angry, and affect change and Virgil shows us that. When men are angry, they rush off to war, avenge a death, or having a silly argument. Yet, angry women are cast off as the irrational ones… The reading that Hera had to be written with a masculine description in order to be taken seriously is not my reading at all. Innana, queen of the heavens, had this same kick-butt attitude throughout her story, but we never described that as a masculine attribute. She was also clever and conniving in a similar way to Hera. As I recall, Inanna was considered a very powerful woman and that gave her so much agency. By calling Hera’s behavior “masculine”, it takes away from the notion of agency I feel is given to her in The Aeneid. In class, the reason that was given for why Dido, the female ruler of Carthage was being tricked was that Virgil would be giving her too much agency if she fell in love of her own accord. Indeed, I agree that Virgil took Dido’s agency for something that is not even explained in the text. The fact that there was a female ruler of a city is remarkable, so I would expect some clear, concise reason for why she would be put to ruin.
Having agency or free will verses everything being up to Fate in The Aeneid is something we did not come to an agreement on in class. The concept I found striking while we questioned Fate in class was walking a path, and being able to deviate from this path. It was pointed out as a possibility, that you can have four paths to deviate to, but they will all lead to the same place. The power of Juno in this text gives me the sense that while Fate is in place, there is a certain degree of agency for all mortals and gods alike. One source is the gods intervening and changing events through a drastic action or something as simple as a mist. I maintain while it is written on a scroll, both mortals and gods can change Fate. Now that Virgil has presented this huge change in how we think of women, they are a part of this discussion of changing Fate. Before this, I didn’t think of women as able to affect change. However, this is only the beginning of this epic. Unlike Aristotle in On the Heavens, I have not taken into account everything in my argument. As this text evolves, what will become of women’s voices and their agency? Will Dido’s ruin be seen as something that was in her control? Was Virgil’s generous amount of time spent on evolving the agency of a woman something that was created only to be later destroyed?

Weaving Webs: Fantastical and Concrete

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Arabian Nights was not the set of tales I had expected at all. I thought of Aladdin and not much else and I was surprised by what I would find. It was instead a very fascinating but equally bizarre narrative with strange sex, murder, deceit, demons, women’s strength, and much more. Bringing it back to IS5, Ethan drew a connection to this story and that of Gilgamesh in the way the main character in both stories needed a distraction from very destructive behavior. Gilgamesh needed to be stopped from doing whatever he wanted, while the king in Arabian Nights needed to be stopped from a murder spree of women. I quickly learned during our discussion that there was significance to the tales in Arabian Nights as fables and folklore.  Women have a particularly interesting role in this book of tales as they take on a variety of symbols in what we have read so far that includes having agency. In this first protokoll, I would like to explore the structure of the narrative, the connection between demons within the stories and the actual kings, and the greater question which is: what is the woman’s end game with the king? (as Travis asked). Does she hope to save society with her cunning or is she just “kicking the cab down the road”, a theory we explored in class.

To summarize some points, the king’s deceitful wife caused him to believe no woman can be trusted and that is only highlighted when he visits his brother’s kingdom and finds more betrayal there. His brother also being betrayed ironically makes him feel better which adds some humor to this story. I questioned why such extreme measures were taken by the king to murder all the virgins the night after marrying them, but I wonder now about the greater meaning of the situation beyond that of the murders he commits. A very intelligent women, Shahrazad, volunteers to marry the king and she has a plan. She begins to tell a story and with her sister’s encouragement the story and more stories follow, which stop her death sentence at least for the time being. I just wonder as an aside, what happened to the second brother who was also deceived by his wife? After his part in the book, he is missing from the narrative. There is already so much going on in Arabian Nights that having another story line going would make it very difficult to follow along.

The structure of the narrative the class found reminiscent of Marie de France with its flow and the beginning of the tales being similar in terms of an “I cannot wait to tell you this story” sort of attitude. I, personally, found the romantic style to be present in both works. In Arabian Nights, there is much repetition of phrases and a lot strange fantasy elements in the way the tales are told. The way the stories are set up draws questions of how true the stories actually are historically (not actually due to the fantasy elements). The authenticity of the stories of both works was questioned by the class, but I think it is difficult to question such a story with so many years of alterations to the manuscripts as the introduction points out. Taking years and years of spoken word and putting it into stories is very difficult already.

Some of us also found the book hard to put down as the stories drew us in in a similar way that they drew the very crazy, unreasonable king, compelled to listen further night after night to a cunning woman. The tales were told in a way that made one want to read on, but also left one with many questions about clarity and plot. To answer some of these questions, Adam drew a diagram of the stories and sub stories on the board where we struggled to decide what part of the plot was resolved in which story. (I feel like I am describing a soap opera at this point.) Many questions came to the table but a significant one is, are these stories told by the woman close to authentic ones or was the woman tailoring these stories to serve her purpose? That idea that she had specific purpose in mind is debatable as well. What is the purpose? The class thought she could weave these stories to compel the king to spare her, and then the kingdom, and that they brought out parallels such as with the king and the demons found in her stories.

The connection between the kings and demons is really interesting because both the kings and demons can be reasoned with in unusual but similar ways. The demons and kings have a murderous, unforgiving nature that makes them very cold and harsh. One demon was released from a jar, but wanted to kill the man that released him and this seems really unfair to me. Both king and demon appear so powerful, but somehow using logic or trickery in the case of the fisherman, one can outsmart a demon. The deep question of whether a man or demon is superior came up in class and I pondered it but truly do not have an answer. Another huge parallel made is the woman that came out of the demon’s chest in one of the stories was there for the demon to keep chaste. This is like the king in the main story wanting his wife to stay faithful to him.

Women’s agency is captivating in this story because women are better story tellers, women cause deceit, and a woman takes it upon herself to control a dangerous situation and save society. Why doesn’t anyone kill the king or why don’t they all run away? Well, the class said that there wouldn’t be much of a story if everyone ran away. The greatest question is what is the end game for our female protagonist? There can be theories spawned from this question that only further reading can really answer. In my eyes, she is saving society temporarily, but can she really convince such a murderous, bitter man that wants to destroy all women that he should change his ways? Is her charm what will change his mind or will a moral in one of the stories warm his ice cold heart? We shall read on in the story and find out what she can achieve with her story telling. Can she save society? One other question to ponder is how will her story telling evolve? Will there be more parallels to real life and more demons that connect to the king? Will her agency shine and bring prosperity to the kingdom is what I really wonder.

Almost doesn’t count: Their Eyes were watching God

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There are many significant questions which arise throughout and at the disappointing conclusion of Their Eyes were Watching God that we as human beings must ask ourselves as we wrestle with the meaning of symbols and themes throughout the novel and attempt to get at the core of who Janie was and who she became. These deep, profound questions are: What does it mean to find your voice? And, elaborating upon that question for the context of the novel at hand: what does it mean to find your voice as a young woman of color? These are questions that are imperative to ask as they help one understand the troubles that Janie our protagonist faces and struggles with in a way never presented to some including myself. She struggles on a emotional and psychological level to find her voice.

Many, many life altering things happen in her life, some things that she actively chooses and some that are simply out of her control. Janie is manipulated in different respects by three men who contribute to her voice being for through the events that occur but also choices she consciously makes. With each man we learn who Janie truly is because she had ways of using her voice that she did not.  Through Logan, Joe, and finally Tea Cake it is discovered that Janie is not the strong female character that has found her voice, for Janie is not a good representation of a strong female character that has grown and found her voice. She is manipulated by THREE men, while the choices she has are limited one can analyze that she attempted to have a voice but constantly did not stand up for herself when it counts like not demanding Tea Cake seek medical attention after the dog bite or Tea Cake stealing all her money and listening dumbly to his rationalization. She only has a bit of agency but it is fleeting for when she loses the one man she actually loved (Tea Cake) she regresses to what was comfortable instead of building a life for herself which she had a golden opportunity to do. Janie’s voice and strong female character do not exist to put it simply. She continually has opportunities to seize what she has and make a life for herself. Many times it appears she has a voice but it is quickly silenced by choices she makes. Through three men, one she did not choose and two she did it can be seen how she does not have a grasp on how to achieve her voice. She is content not having a voice or being strong.

At the beginning of Janie’s journey, she is taken from her beginnings of learning about herself. The symbol of the pear tree and her budding sexuality are so important but they are stifled, suffocated and destroyed. Her grandmother is thinking she is helping Janie by having her marry Logan, this is in a time different from now where being content and happy meant he did not beat her too much and she had an “okay” life, which Janie discovers is a meaningless life. Her budding sexuality was taken away by her grandmother’s concern for her just as it started to bloom, “On a late afternoon Nanny had called her to come inside the house because she spied Janie letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the fence at the gatepost” (Hurston 10) is a scene where Janie’s sexuality is stifled. The pear tree of budding sexuality described as “snowy virginity of bloom” (page 10) gets taken from her. This scene is absolutely a starting point for things going downhill for Janie only ten pages into the novel. Society is telling her that her own curiosities are to be ignored and she is to marry and “learn how to love”. This is one event in the book that disjoints Janie’s mindset and develops in her a hatred for her grandma that Janie discusses way later in the novel.   When Janie discovers she will not “learn to love” (Huston 12) Logan and the twisted things she was told about love turn out to be wrong, she does demonstrate some agency when Logan belittles her work in the house and demands she does work outside on p. 31. At this point in the novel Janie defends herself by saying her work does count. It is deeply sad seeing Janie hope that the love between her and Logan will just somehow develop, when it is clear through Logan’s actions that is not the case. Logan does not physically abuse her, but leaves emotional scars that cause her to cling to Joe Starks. There is a point where one feels sympathy for Janie but also realizes her agency at this point in the novel is limited because she belongs to Logan like property and he takes that expression quite literally by wanting her to behave like a mule, which is part of the emotional abuse. The mule imagery is overlapped into her interaction with Joe. Unfortunately, the mule symbolizes how women are viewed and how they are to actually push the load for the male. This quote encompasses it quite well, “So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule ud de world so fur as Ah can see” (Hurston 44). This quote by Nanny examines that the white man is at the top of the hierarchy and black men attempt to compensate for that by lowering the black women and giving her that burden of suffering at the bottom. It is sickening but this mule imaginary is something that Janie does challenge and ultimately when Logan leaves to get the mule she discovers her future husband Joe Starks. She runs away, but clearly with the first husband she does not have agency or much of a voice and we will see that steadily decline.

That moment where Janie escapes Logan was a point in the novel where one hopes a shift has been made. Janie realizes that Logan is wretched but also finds an escape in the form of Joe Starks. She takes a step to get out of an impossible situation by leaving with someone who she obviously believes is a better option than Logan and who can possibly offer a better life. However, as Joe becomes mayor her sense of self is diminished to “Miss Mayor” (Hurston 43) and it is troubling how yet again she is in difficult circumstances. Could she have foreseen how much she would have suffered – no but she does little about it. The worst part of this particular selection when Janie is with Joe is the level of control over her Joe gains and she cannot even speak, and her grand speech is just too little too late. He already beats her over a bad meal and constantly tells her where her place is.  There were steps she could have taken that she did not, such as simply leaving the situation that made her miserable and this is because she sees superiority, a whiteness about him something that she perhaps hopes will give her a leg up in the world. There is a key part where Joe passes away and her mourning for him is an act. It is a pondering as to why this act was necessary and it does not say good things about Janie that she “starches her face” (Hurston 88).  She decides to pretend she loved him and to look like she is mourning when actually she does not have to do any of that. That is a place where she could have used her small voice, made a grand speech that would have had a gigantic impact, and she chose to do something that was not beneficial for her at all. It is a part of her we have not seen but a strange way to use her “voice” which we are going to see diminish even more.

As if Janie hasn’t had enough trouble, she finds more in the form of Tea Cake. By far the most difficult to analyze of the three men because she loves him (so there occurs a skewed view), but once it is all cleared away it becomes easy to see that Janie does not use the voice and thus loses it to this man and the situations that arise. This is the first and only man she loves and is attracted to sexually. One would think that she has found her voice by going fishing and on various other trips with Tea Cake, and it appears that a shift that we have been waiting for has been made at long last. However, once they are together and married everything is blurred and a gray arises where one must recognize Janie is making mistakes and not allowing her voice to be heard. Why does she now want to work with Tea Cake picking beans whereas she hated the store work with Joe? She loves Tea Cake so she loves being around him, but what real choices about her life does she make to enrich it? She also gets abused by Tea Cake so her being hit repeatedly is a symbol of possession but still loves him in spite of that. This is perhaps is the most upsetting. She accepts his gambling and other faults but when her life is in actual danger, she continues to be in denial by saying that he is just pointing the gun at me or he is just shooting: “The gun came up unsteadily but quickly and leveled at Janie’s breast. She noted that even in his delirium he took good aim. Maybe he would point to scare her, that’s all” (Hurston 183). She simply had a bit of a voice with Logan and somehow love has blinded her to a point where she does not comprehend the danger she is in. Not only does Janie not have a voice and doesn’t demonstrate a strong female voice she doesn’t use the agency she does have. It is painful to read on as this tale unfolds and see her mourn Tea Cake and then there is her behavior after his death truly does it to nail shut the case about her voice. Instead of using her new life to create something of meaning, she regresses to a state of who she used to be. If anything positive can be said it is she went on a journey that changed her for the better but then she went backwards in her journey and she changed back to a ghost of herself.

In conclusion, the saddest part is all the chances that she had that she let slip away. It is lost opportunities throughout this novel that disappoint the reader. It is true that Joe treated her better than Logan and Tea Cake treated her better than Joe. That does not matter when the way she is being treated by the “best” man is still quite awful. With Tea Cake, she had a man she loved and if she could have pulled through and used her words and actions everything that happened could have happened differently. The hurricane is obviously something no one has control of, but she could have made better decisions such as getting treatment for Tea Cake when the dog bites him. It is sickening how she chose Joe and Tea Cake and accepted many things and then was upset by the outcome. She was always close to a breakthrough in her voice. One kept waiting for it to happen and the novel to drastically change. Unfortunately, almost does not count and Janie is left with no voice because of her own choices and is not a strong female character as a consequence.