The Symbol of Hair in the Novel Their Eyes Were Watching God
In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Joe tries to possess Janie’s sexuality for himself through means of covering up her sensuous hair. Joe is a very controlling, jealous and possessive man by nature, “Joe never told Janie how jealous he was”(55). Janie’s hair made her more sexually attractive to the men in the town and this extremely angered Joe.
Joe saw this first hand in the store when, “he had caught Walter standing behind Janie and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her braid ever so lightly to enjoy the feel of it”(55). After this incident, Joe demanded that, “Her hair was NOT going to show in the store”(55).
Joe wanted to contain and control Janie’s sexaulity and her sexual appeal. For Janie was his to control and “for him to look at, not those others”(55). He was insecure in his marriage with Janie for she was beautiful to other men, and he wanted her for his own personal gain. She was his possession, so “He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store”(55).
By forcing Janie to tie up her hair, he is forcibly controlling her sexuality and making sure that she is only for his possession and no one else. By controlling her sexuality through her hair he is granting her no freedom and taking away something that represents her beauty and power. Also by ordering Janie to tie up her hair to retain modesty and not allow other men to look at her in such a sexual manner, suggests that by Janie wearing her hair down the way she likes it, is somehow immodest and that she does it on purpose. Joe wants to silence her, possess her and claim her so that she seems less desirable to other men.