Tag Archives: imposition

Names and Autonomy

“‘And now we’ll listen tuh uh few words uh encouragement from Mrs. Mayor Starks.’

The burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor himself.

‘Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home'” (43).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

This moment reflects the themes of both being silenced and being named in Hurston’s novel. When Joe does not allow Janie to speak it is a sharp denial of Janie’s human right to speech because of her gender. Its problematic effect is heightened because this is the first time in which Janie is called “Mrs. Mayor Starks,” with Joe’s following clarification of “mah wife.” This denotes ownership, but it is also follows a theme in other parts of the book, such as when she is called Alphabet, which is before she even realizes the color of her skin. This shows that when names are imposed upon Janie, it stifles the progress of Janie’s self-actualization and self-determination, in turn stifling the novel itself.