Their Eyes Were Watching God
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The years took all the fight out of Janie’s face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul. No matter what Jody did, she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave some. She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels. (7.1)
Janie’s inability to communicate isolates her to such an extend that she sees herself as a "rut in the road." She is eventually rejuvenated when she finds her voice again, which she uses to accuse Jody of his crimes against her.
[Janie]: "You big-bellies round here and put out a lot of brag, but ‘tain’t nothin’ to it but yo’ big voice. Humph! Talkin’ ‘bout me lookin’ old! When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life." (7.22)
Janie recognizes Joe (and men in general) as nothing but a "big voice"; in other words, Joe’s words have no substance behind them. It’s almost like Janie’s showing that words aren’t good enough on their own, they only have power when there is truth behind them. Then, she goes on to castrate Joe with her incisive words – since her words are true, they’re very potent.
[after Janie insults Joe’s manhood]: They didn’t talk too much around the store either. Anybody that didn’t know would have thought that things had blown over, it looked so quiet and peaceful around. But the stillness was the sleep of swords. So new thoughts had to be thought and new words said. She didn’t want to live like that. Why must Joe be so mad with her for making him look small when he did it to her all the time? (8.1)
Joe’s embarrassment and rage at Janie for publicly insulting his manhood leads to the silent treatment. For once, Joe is at a loss for words and tries to get back at Janie by refusing to speak to her. Janie sees this and realizes that their marriage is totally destroyed. In order to renew their relationship, they need to change the way they communicate with each other and use "new words."