Their Eyes Were Watching God

why does janie starch and iron her face?

why does janie starch and iron her face

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One of the interesting techniques that Hurston uses here is ambiguity. The first sentence says that Janie "starched and ironed her face" and came to the funeral "behind her veil." Because "face" and "veil" are both used in the sentence, the reader is led to believe that Janie is wearing a veil over her face. But, the next sentence reads: "It was like a wall of stone and steel." Here, the use of "it" is ambiguous. Does "it" refer to Janie's face, or the veil? In fact, "it" seems to indicate that there is no veil at all, but rather just a face. The veil is simply a metaphor. This metaphor continues through the paragraph, "Inside the expensive black folds were resurrection and life." Again, a cursory glance might lead the reader to believe that Janie is wearing an expensive veil. But this is probably not the case. The folds of Janie's veil are "expensive" because they were developed over time; the folds are metaphors for the wrinkles in Janie's skin caused by her stressful and oppressive relationship with Joe. The folds are expensive because they have cost Janie her youth.