CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Megan E. Ash | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Summary

The long years of the empty, loveless marriage go on. Janie develops an outward appearance of compliance, but inwardly she is saving her emotions. Seventeen years pass, and Joe, more than Janie, begins visibly aging. His vanity makes it hard for him to accept his aging and his as-yet-unadmitted illness. Characteristically, he transfers his frustration about his decline to Janie; one day he even orders her away from a croquet game because he says it’s something for young folks.

Joe shows signs of physical decline: an aching back, increasing thinness, and grumpiness. His verbal abuse of Janie becomes worse, and the townfolks see that it has gone far beyond that to which they have been accustomed. Throughout the marriage, Joe never hesitates to insult Janie before them, and she always bites her tongue and accepts it, but as Joe’s aging and illness make him even more bitter, Janie unexpectedly strikes back. Before an audience of porch sitters, she insults his manhood. This is Janie’s emancipation, and Joe retaliates by striking her as hard as he can and making her leave the store.


Commentary

Chapter 7 serves as a pivotal point for Janie and her marriage. As the years have passed, Janie has become totally submissive to Joe, to avoid both his physical and verbal abuse. Joe has made an effort over the years to ridicule Janie even more when there was an audience to witness his cruelty. However, when Janie makes a mistake while cutting chewing tobacco, Joe lashes out at Janie in the middle of the store by criticizing her intelligence and her beauty.

Suddenly, something changes for Janie. She says that she felt as if “somebody snatched off part of a woman’s clothes while she wasn’t looking and the street were crowded.” After years of his oppression, Janie stands up for herself before Joe and a group of townspeople. She begins to take control of her life, by telling Joe what she really thinks. By lashing out, she “had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible.”

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CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents iii
  • How to Use This Book vi
  • Life and Background of the Author 1
  • Introduction to the Novel 11
  • Critical Commentaries 19
  • Chapter 1 20
  • Chapter 2 24
  • Chapter 3 27
  • Chapter 4 29
  • Chapter 5 32
  • Chapter 6 36
  • Chapter 7 41
  • Chapter 8 43
  • Chapter 9 46
  • Chapter 10 48
  • Chapter 11 50
  • Chapter 12 52
  • Chapter 13 54
  • Chapter 14 57
  • Chapter 15 59
  • Chapter 16 60
  • Chapter 17 62
  • Chapter 18 64
  • Chapter 19 66
  • Chapter 20 69
  • Character Analyses 71
  • Critical Essays 81
  • CliffsNotes Review 89
  • CliffsNotes Resource Center 93
  • Index 95
  • Notes 101
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