The intersecting structures of patriarchy and racial oppression in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Authors
Spies, Jessica
Issue Date
2014-04-26
Type
oral
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en_US
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Abstract
This presentation identifies the two main forces of oppression at play in Zora Neale Hurston's seminal work Their Eyes Were Watching God: racial injustice and patriarchy. Oppression, as seen in Hurston's text, is the continued unjust treatment or domination of one group over another group. These structures are similar in the way they manifest and how they play into the creation of identity. In these structures, the oppressed character has a moment in her development when she realizes she is a member of the oppressed and that this type of oppression exists. The two main manifestations of oppression are physical control by the oppressors and internalized oppression by the oppressed character. Both patriarchy and racial oppression are equally damaging and create a sense of normality through assumed roles in which the oppressed character learns to be submissive. The main character, Janie, revels in defying both gendered and racial expectations of her and is ultimately able to recover from the damaging effects of the two. Although Hurston's Janie has come a long way from her grandmother's time, Hurston ultimately paints a bleak picture of the effects of these forms of oppression as Janie is not the rule, only an exception.
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