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A Comprehensive Analysis of Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)

This profound tale follows the romantic endeavors of Janie, a beautiful young African American who searches for true love and the meaning of her life. This analysis will summarize and analyse the novel chapter by chapter.

Format

The analyses of the chapters will be in this format:

1. Chapter summary.

2. Focus Character of Chapter

3. Meaningful quote from the chapter and analysis of it.

4. Analysis of symbols and motifs. Some of these include: The Pear Tree, The Horizon, Janie’s Hair, The Hurricane, The Folklore Quality of Religion, Race and Racism, Love and Relationships versus Independence, Power and Conquest as Means to Fulfillment, Language: Speech and Silence, Colloquialism, Local Color, The Relationships Between the Sexes.

Chapter 1: Returned From the Dead

1. A frowzy looking Janie walks into Eatonville after a long journey from the Everglades, several townsfolk sitting on their porches begin asking questions. The women assume that Tea Cake left with her money, while the men still have physical attractions to her, and all of the porch-sitters are asking caustic rhetorical questions without understanding the situation themselves. As Janie proceeds to walk on back to her own house, her friend Phoeby defends Janie’s situation from the porch-sitters and goes to comfort Janie. She brings her food and Janie begins to explain how Tea Cake is dead, but did not run away with her money. Then Janie begins to tell Phoeby the story of her life.

2. Phoeby says, “Ah knowed you’d be hungry”, which shows her caring for Janie as a good friend. Phoeby is a caring friend who would not betray Janie, but she is not entirely unselfish, as part of the reason she came to comfort Janie was to get information from her. Phoeby’s role in the novel is that of a supporting character. She is the recipient of Janie’s life story. Also, Janie does not have many friends, and her friendship with Phoeby is one of the last relationships Janie has in her life by the end of the novel. Phoeby keeps Janie from being depressed and gives Janie some reason to stay in Eatonville.

3. “So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.” This quote signifies Janie’s final interactions with Tea Cake, and what implications they had for Janie. Many would judge Janie for her killing Tea Cake without understanding everything. This quote also vaguely gives a backstory for Janie.

4. There is a reference to the horizon on the first page of the book that speaks of ships at a distance, and a reference to Janie’s hair as the men are staring at her beautiful physical features.

Chapter 2: The Pear Tree

1. Janie begins her story in her childhood days, when she lived with her Nanny and a white woman named Mrs. Washburn. Nanny was ambitious and thought it would be better for Janie to live without Mrs. Washburn, so she purchased her own house with a yard that Janie would play in frequently. One day, Janie was sitting under a particular pear tree and was pondering the wonders of love, when Johnny Taylor comes walking by. They talk and then kiss, but now without Nanny seeing. Nanny thinks it is time for Janie to get a husband to ensure she won’t be dabbling with the likes of lazy Johnny Taylor, and so she sets Janie up to marry Logan Killicks, who has a 60 acre potato farm, at the age of 17. Although Janie protests and says love should be less of an arranged ordeal, Nanny’s resolve is strong and eventually Janie gives in to Nanny’s demands.

2. Nanny says, “Ah couldn’t love yuh no more if Ah had uh felt yo’ birth pains mahself… And mah head is ole and tilted towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo’self.” This shows Nanny’s growing concern for Janie as Nanny nears death. Nanny cares the most for Janie, and wants the best for her, but has complete disregard for what Janie wants. Years of slavery have shaped her providing personality into a forceful one. Nanny’s role in the novel is that of a supporting character that determines how Janie’s first marriage would turn out to be. She represses Janie’s desires as a woman and gives her a secure yet miserable life. Nanny wants to protect Janie from the wrongs of the world, but she has little time left on the earth. Thus, she sets a marriage with Logan, who can provide stability (economically and as a husband).

3. “Ah don’t want yo’ feathers always crumpled by folks throwin’ up things in yo’ face. And I can’t die easy thinkin’ maybe de menfolks white or black is makin’ a spit cup outa you.” This quote from Nanny exemplifies her care and worry for Janie, which is the basis for Janie’s first marriage.

4. This chapter begins the symbol of the pear tree, which complements and describes the relationships between the sexes.

Chapter 3: Where’s the Love?

1. Janie has a generous wedding with three cakes and fried rabbit and chicken, and rides off to Logan’s farm with him. She does not like his house and thinks it to be dreary, but is excited to find love with him. After three months of living with Logan, she goes to Nanny and says she can’t find any love with him, and expounds on her predicament. Nanny, originally in a happy mood, gets angry at her ungrateful grandchild and tells her to wait for a little longer for the love to come. Janie returns home unsatisfied, and by another moon cycle Nanny is dead.

2. Janie says “Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think. Ah…” This shows Janie’s pursuit of real love, exciting love, the kind that she was comparing to the beauty of the pear tree. Janie is a go-getter, one that will eventually get what she wants. She never gives up on her wishes, but her wishes can be quite quixotic, as all she wants to do is fall in love, and nothing else. Janie is the main character in the novel, and the story revolves around her. She is a symbol of feminism, as she empowers women readers with the message that women can accomplish as much or more than men. Even if society judges her for her encounters with Tea Cake, she still trudges on with life, knowing that every day is a new one. She eventually marries three men, and is only happy with the last of them. This journey for she embarks on after leaving Logan’s farm reflects the goals of many to find lasting love.

3. “…You told me Ah mus gointer love him, and, and Ah don’t. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it.” This signifies Janie as a young lover by showing her innocence and pure desire for true love.

4. This chapter mentioned the pear tree right before Janie begins to cry about her loveless marriage. It also mentions local color when Nanny says that ungratefulness like Janie’s was why colored folk had to do such back breaking work.

Chapter 4: Mr. Joe Starks

1. Within a year of the marriage, Logan and Janie begin to have problems between them. Logan needs help in the fields, and says that Janie is spoiled and should start lending a hand to him. He leaves to buy another mule so she can help plowing, and she sits on a pleasant spot in the yard where she can see the road whilst cutting seed potatoes. She sees a spritely looking Joe Starks walk by and seems interested in him. Later she fights with Logan, threatening to leave him, and by the next morning she does leave with Joe Starks. They head down to Green Cove Springs to marry.

2. Logan says, “If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside… You done been spoilt rotten.” Logan just wants some help on the farm, and finds it unfair that he has to do all of the work. He is a hardworking man, but he does not know how to keep his bride in his hands; in other words, he is not good at treating a woman correctly. Logan is Janie’s first husband, and only makes a major appearance in chapter 4. He is a supporting character that is a push factor for Janie to want to embark on a love journey. Logan helps display Janie’s quality of disregard for those she does not love. Logan just wants some help on his farm, but she sees him as an ugly old man asking for too much of her.

3. “You ain’t got no particular place. It’s wherever Ah need yuh. Git uh move on yuh, and dat quick.” This quote shows Logan’s rough behavior with Janie, which is partially why she left him.

4. This chapter has a reference to Janie’s hair in the first paragraph, as well as the horizon, where the red daggers of the sun rise before Janie left Logan’s farm.

Chapter 5: The New Mayor

1. At first, Janie’s marriage with Joe Starks seems promising, as Janie shows an admiration to several of Joe’s qualities. He is a very personable character, and has the charisma and money to set up the new town where they are to live. Joe becomes mayor and provides the town with a store, a post office, and public street lights. Janie’s status increases with his, and others begin to become envious of Janie’s wealth, beauty, and spouse. Joe starts demanding things from Janie as soon as he becomes busy, and at first Janie is submissive to his command because she owes a lot to him. She is very unhappy though, as she cannot make friends easily with the other women, and her only friend is Phoeby Watson.

2. Joe Starks (aka Jody) says, “Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothing’ bout no speech-makin’…She’s uh woman and her place is in de home.” Joe does not allow Janie to give a speech, showing his controlling nature. He is a very charismatic person and a natural leader, but he is very controlling, especially of his wife, and can be quite ostentatious too. Joe Starks is one of the main characters in the novel, and he is Janie’s second husband. There is a major transition between Logan and he, as Janie chose to go off with Joe, albeit in a time of desperation. With Joe’s controlling personality, Hurston could develop Janie’s character eventually as one who does not want to be controlled by showing the contrast and conflict between the two characters. At first Janie’s relationship with Joe seems to be dandy, but it eventually turns into one of resent that shows both characters’ true sides. Joe is also the first character that exemplified the motif of “Power and Conquest as Means to Fulfillment”.

3. “There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town…He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible.” This quote supports the notion that Joe is a very commanding character that demanded respect. It also supports the aforementioned motif.

4. This chapter had many references to Power and Conquest as a Means to Fulfillment, to which Joe was the main agent of. Joe’s commanding stature and position of mayor clearly portrayed this motif. Another motif that was prominent in this chapter was Language: Speech and Silence, where Joe was doing all of the speaking and Janie was shushed to silence by Joe.

Chapter 6: The Mule

1. The porch sitters in front of Joe’s store have been recently mocking Matt Bonner’s abusive relationship with his mule. They make stories that Janie finds funny whilst working in the store, but Joe prohibits her from talking to “trash” like them. One day Joe and Janie see the men teasing the mule, and Joe buys the mule in a random act of kindness towards the mule as well as Janie. Joe then lets the mule roam free and eventually has a funeral in honor of it. One day, Joe can’t find his shipment bill and starts scolding Janie, and , to his satisfactions, she eventually submits. Another time, Joe slaps Janie for a debacle in the kitchen, at which point Janie knows that their marriage will not end happily.

2. Sam Watson says “De womenfolks got yo’ mule. When Ah come round de lake ‘bout noontime mah wife and some other had ‘im flat on de ground usin’ his sides fuh uh wash board.” This shows his comical manner when speaking to Matt about his mule. Sam is seemingly funny guy who likes to crack jokes with the other porch sitters, but he can be a bit cruel to poor Matt Bonner and his ailing mule at times. Sam Watson plays a very short role in the novel. He is one of the fun loving porch sitters that lounge around Joe’s store. He and his friends Lige and Walter are essential, however, in facilitating Joe’s controlling manner over Janie. If it weren’t for the porch sitters enticing Janie to join their conversation, Joe would not have expressed his will on her. Sam is also the husband of Phoeby, one of Janie’s good friends.

3. “[Janie] was in the store for [Joe] to look at, not those others.” This quote relating to Joe forcing Janie to tie her hair up shows Joe’s feeling of ownership whenever he thinks of his wife.

4. Once again, Joe’s constant wish to dominate and conquer has led him to attempt to control and manipulate his wife, and so Power and Conquest as Means to Fulfillment applies here, as well as Love and Relationships versus Independence. Janie must choose between independence and a seemingly grim relationship with Joe, but for now she just suppresses desires. Finally, a reference to Janie’s hair is made when Joe tells her to tie it up.

Chapter 7: Emancipation

1. 17 years of a bitter marriage passes, and Janie is still suppressing her emotions when speaking with Joe. He is physically aging much faster than Janie, yet he transfers his frustration onto Janie by insulting her often about her age. As Joe ages, his verbal and physical abuse of Janie becomes more evident, and he always harasses her in front of the townsfolk. Janie finally retaliates by insulting Joe’s manhood in front of all of the porch sitters, to which he beats her and shuns her from the store. This act of rebellion is Janie’s first act of emancipation from Joe’s manipulative clutches.

2. Steve Mixon says “Uh woman and uh knife—no kind uh knife, don’t b’long tuhgether.” Mixon is a man who does not mind such a small thing as improperly cut tobacco, but he does cause a lot of trouble in the store and also says some quite derogatory statements about women. Steve plays a very small role in the story, as a supporting character. He was important to set up the scene where Janie finally emancipates herself from Joe. His seemingly innocent comment about Janie to Joe starts a conversation that leaves both Joe and Janie’s relationship past a point of no return. Mixon also refers to a theme of feminism in the story, where he makes insulting comments about women.

3. “Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible.” This quote supports Janie’s first steps of freedom from Joe, where she insults what lies beneath his britches.

4. This chapter referred to the motif of Colloquialism several times, such as when Sam Watson says “Y’all really playin’ de dozens tuhnight”, meaning that they were exchanging insults a lot. This chapter also has a reference to Speech and Silence, as Janie finally speaks her mind about Joe harassing her.

Chapter 8: Impenitence and Pity

1. Joe and Janie’s marriage is finally destroyed, with Janie’s previous comment shattering Joe’s manhood. Joe has moved to his own room in which Janie is prohibited from entering. Joe’s failing health is obvious, but he refuses to call a medical doctor. Janie tries to tend to him as a good wife should, but he disallows it. Finally, Janie gets a medical doctor to come, but it is too late for Joe, as he has failing kidneys. He dies impenitent for his wrongs towards Janie, but Janie still pities her dead husband.

2. In his time of dying, Joe says, “Shut up! Ah wish thunder and lightnin’ would kill yuh!” In his old age, Joe has become a bitter man with a lot of money. He is now so bitter that he wishes death upon his wife, without hesitation. Joe has lost a lot of his liveliness of youth and argues with Janie more so than ever in his final hours. He has gained so much hate for Janie as to make me consider describing his character once more. Janie tries to convince him to repent, but his stubborn attitude prevents him from even realizing what he has done. Ironically, his stubborn attitude was what will kill him now, as he refused to see an actual medical doctor early on.

3. “Ah knowed you wasn’t gointuh lissen tuh me. You changes everything but nothin’ don’t change you- not even death.” This quote shows Joe’s consistently stubborn attitude, and how Janie is trying to get him to hear her out in his final hours.

4. This chapter addresses Janie’s hair in the final paragraph, where she reassesses her looks. It is a constant symbol of beauty in the novel. This chapter also refers to Love and Relationships versus Independence, as Janie gains complete independence from a life of servitude when Joe dies.

Chapter 9: The Horizon

1. Janie acts how a widow should at Joe’s upscale funeral, but inside she grieves little. Afterwards, she burns all of the headrags that Joe made her wear as an act of freedom. Her life changes in that she has freedom to do what she wants with whomever she wants now. She still runs the store, now with Hezekiah, and can talk on the porch if she pleases. She even meets a charming fellow named Tea Cake, to whom she has gained an interest in.

2. Hezekiah says, “Naw indeed, we can’t do nothin’ uh de kind! I god, you ain’t paid for dem last rations you done et up. I god…” Hezekiah is a kind boy who helps Janie around the store and keeps an eye on her social presence, but he likes to copy Joe Starks all the time. Hezekiah is a supporting character that pretends to be the late Joe Starks. His imitations bring joy to Janie, and his relationship with Janie seems to be smooth. Hezekiah has a sense of ownership that makes him an honest young lad. His significance to the story is shown as his youth being a reflection of Janie’s new life of freedom.

3. “Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon… and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her.” This quote is important as it signifies the motif of the horizon, and it shows Janie’s reassessed thoughts of her Grandmother.

4. This chapter refers to the Horizon as a symbol of freedom and opportunity. It also speaks of Love and Relationships versus Independence, as Janie is now a free woman, independent of any man.

Chapter 10: As Sweet As Tea Cake

1. The town seems empty to Janie, as no one is visiting the store. A man by the nickname of Tea Cake walks in and Janie begins to like him, almost as if it were intuitive. The two begin to speak and flirting follows. Janie’s newfound freedom allows her to do so, and she takes advantage of her freedom to the fullest extent. He is not like other men, and even teaches her to play checkers!

2. Tea Cake says, “You got a little piece uh fire over dere, lady?” Tea Cake is a very kind and gentlemanly figure. His worst attribute is hard to find, but it might be his social reputation as a poor man. Tea Cake is a very important main character in the story, as he is the first sign of genuine happiness for Janie, albeit ephemeral. He and Janie’s relationship almost begins with love at first site. The chemistry between the two is obviously complementary in their first encounter. This might be attributed to Tea Cake’s lack of manipulative or controlling properties that Joe plagued Janie with previously. He is also unique from other men, as he is not prejudiced towards women, or at the very least not towards Janie. He lives life to the fullest and seems to be exactly what Janie was looking for in this transitional stage of her life.

3. “She was in favor of the story that was making him laugh before she even heard it.” This quote shows how Janie knew Tea Cake would be pleasant by just looking at him, and reinforces the notion that Janie was smitten by him as soon as he walked in.

4. The Relationships Between the Sexes was an obvious motif of this chapter, as Tea Cake and Janie flirted throughout the chapter. Another motif was Love and Relationships versus Independence, which I found interesting because the opposing sides of this motif (Love and Relationship, Independence) became one and the same as Janie came to like Tea Cake. Tea Cakes’ unimposing demeanor meant that her relationship with him became a reminder of her independence from Joe.

Chapter 11: Bees, Blossoms and Trees

1. Tea Cake becomes a regular visitor of Janie’s store, and one day he begins combing Janie’s hair and urging her to look at her attractive self in the mirror. At first, Janie and Tea Cake were avoiding each other, as Janie had two failed marriages already and was not sure if he is trustworthy, and Tea Cake did not want to lose her because of his own self-image. There is also the issue of their age difference, as Janie is quite older than Tea Cake (which kind of switches the age group from the male being older in Janie and Joe’s relationship). Janie then thinks much about Tea Cake when he leaves, and they consummate their love once she has confirmed his intentions. Then Tea Cake leaves for four days and worries Janie, but returns saying he was making money to take her on the upcoming Sunday school picnic. He then makes sure she understands that she is the only one for him.

2. Janie says, “Ah never have done it so fur. But as de old folks always say, Ah’m born but ain’t dead. No tellin’ whut Ah’m liable tuh do yet.” Janie has developed into a happier character after Joe’s death, and her encounter with Tea Cake has given her a newfound hope in life. It is difficult to find a bad attribute for Janie, but if I were to say, her worst attribute would be her constant worrying of Tea Cake whenever he leaves without her. She seems to lack confidence in his integrity because of what others have said of him and how her previous relationships had ended up. Janie has recently developed in character a lot. Now that she is independent from Joe and Nanny’s wishes, she now sees life through a different lens, and through her flirtations she is enforcing this newfound freedom. Janie has started to learn what real love is like, instead of mere infatuation like she had when first meeting Joe. The chemistry she shares with Tea Cake is quite complimentary between the two. This relationship with Tea Cake will dominate the second half of the book, and completed a positive linear development of the quality of relationship that Janie shares with her spouses.

3. “Janie, Ah hope God may kill me, if Ah’m lyin’. Nobody else on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby. You got de keys to de kingdom.” This quote signifies Tea Cake’s devotion to Janie and that Tea Cake was true about loving Janie from the start of their relationship.

4. This chapter refers to The Relationships Between the Sexes, as Janie and Tea Cake continue their pursuit of love. It also refers to Janie’s Hair, when Tea Cake is combing it to show her that her comfort is his. This also signified his care for her and her beauty.

Chapter 12: Dating & Indignance

1. The former Mrs. Mayor Starks goes to the Sunday school picnic with Tea Cake, and many of the townsfolk have taken this action as a sign of something unjust. The two lovebirds go on other sorts of dates, such as dancing, hunting, going to the movies, and late night fishing. Phoeby talks to Janie about her newfound romance, and warns her of the implications it might have. Janie says Tea Cake is not going to steal her money, and that she can trust him. Phoeby shows a little jealousy, but in the end Janie is unconvinced because of her newfound independence. This new relationship is almost too good to be true.

2. Phoeby says, “Watch yo’self, Janie, and don’t be took advantage of. You know how dese young men is wid older women. Most of de time dey’s after whut dey kin git, then dey’s gone lak uh turkey through de corn.” Phoeby is a very concerned friend for Janie, but she does express some envy towards Janie’s ‘too good to be true’ relationship with Tea Cake. She has proven to be a true friend of Janie through the first half of the novel. She shows she cares for Janie through her concern for her, although ultimately it was unnecessary. Pheoby does play a small role in the novel, but her actions help describe Janie’s feelings towards Tea Cake. Pheoby elicits a response from Janie that shows Janie trusts Tea Cake with her money as well as with herself.

3. “’Tain’t so big uh chance as it seem lak, Pheoby. Ah’m older than Tea Cake, yes. But he done showed me where it’s de thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people thinks de same they can make it all right.” This quote shows Janie’s understanding of the age gap between her and Tea Cake, and that she doesn’t mind it because their chemistry is so complimentary.

4. This chapter speaks of Janie’s Hair once more, and this is referred to when the townspeople notice her being all dressed up most of the time. This shows the townspeople’s never ending envy for Janie. The chapter also refers to the motif of the relationships between the sexes, as the increase in recent dating that is all that Pheoby is discussing with Janie.

Chapter 13: Jacksonville

1. Janie goes to Jacksonville to marry Tea Cake. The two are married soon after she reaches, but Tea Cake leaves with the 200 dollars Janie had. She frets and worries, thinking her fate will be similar to a certain Mrs. Tyler. Tea Cake comes back smiling and laughing, saying he threw a party for the workers. When Janie asks why he did not come back for her, he says he thought she might not like his friends, but she responds by saying she does not “class off”, an action usually enforced by her late husband Joe. The 200 dollars Tea Cake took are won back when he leaves to gamble the money he spent, and he comes back with 300 dollars. However, this comes with a price, as he was slashed in the back by one of his competitors. After he heals, Tea Cake says that he and she will go to the Glades to work ‘on the muck’

2. The landlady says, “Yo’ husband gone tuh work dis mornin’, Mis’ Woods? Ah seen him go out uh good while uh go. Me and you kin be comp’ny for one ‘nother, can’t us?” The landlady has the good attribute of wanting to share company with Janie, and her apparent worst attribute is that she did not let Janie know that Tea Cake left earlier (this is not really a bad attribute). The landlady plays an extremely short role in the novel. She explains to Janie where her husband has gone, but Janie is still confused why he took her 200 dollars. The landlady asks Janie to have coffee with her because she feels lonely. This character provides company to Janie in her ephemeral time of distress.

3. “He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place.” This quote at the end of the chapter shows Janie finally placing her full trust and love in her new husband. It also shows how she has real love for him, as opposed to her earlier husbands.

4. This chapter speaks of Love and Relationships versus Independence, as it shows how Janie’s newfound independence has turned into a dependence on her beloved. This chapter also speaks of the relationships between the sexes, as Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship is strained a bit in this chapter, but is eventually made stronger.

Chapter 14: The Everglades

1. Tea Cake is in his happy place at the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. He knows is very knowledgeable of life on the muck, and so the couple rents a hotel with a bathtub. Then they move to a two room house, which Janie turns into a home as Tea Cake cultivates beans. Tea Cake also teaches Janie to shoot. Soon, many workers arrive in the camp, and with them a whole new spirit of crowd is brought. This crowd is different from the crowd in Eatonville in that they work very hard and have a good time after work. Tea Cake entertains many of them with his singing and guitar combo, and Janie soon joins them all on the muck. Whilst working, Janie finds her current lifestyle to be much more fulfilling than her one in Eatonville.

2. Bootyny says, “What are you goin’ tuh do? Do do!” Bootyny and his card playing friends is a lively bunch that brings fun to the scene, but they seem to insult each other a lot whilst playing cards. This group of people is necessary to show the contrast between the muck and Eatonville to Janie. The fun-loving, gambling workers of the muck seem to be more down to earth than the townsfolk in Eatonville, and they reflect the good times Janie is having with Tea Cake. This crowd of people is exactly what made Janie feel pity for her neighbors in Eatonville, and she knew it. They are significant to the novel because they provide a light mood and atmosphere that has seemed to follow Janie around ever since she met Tea Cake.

3. “To Janie’s strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new.” This quote shows Janie’s immediate interest in the Everglades and the fact that it was like a whole new world.

4. This chapter makes references to the horizon, as the book describes the sugar cane grew on either side of the road that hid the rest of the world (the rest of the world being analogous to the horizon). Chapter 14 also makes many references to Colloquialism, especially during the intense card game at the end of the chapter. Ed said he would “break up that setting of eggs” when speaking of Sop’s cards.

Chapter 15: Nunkie

1. Nunkie is a ‘chunky girl’ that has recently been making moves toward Tea Cake. Janie is inherently jealous, and tries chasing her away. At one point she can’t find Tea Cake or Nunkie, and she expects the worst. After she finally finds him the two physically fight and she assaults him. After the fight, Janie understands that Tea Cake is still serious about her, so this debacle only strengthened their relationship.

2. Nunkie was an important factor in this chapter. However, unfortunately, she does not say a single word. To show what effect she had, I will give a quote by Janie in place, but will explain the character of Nunkie afterwards. Janie says to Tea Cake after they made love, “You still love ole Nunkie?” Nunkie seems to be a flirtatious young girl who has good intentions, but whose worst attribute is her ignorance of Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship. Nunkie plays a very small role in the novel, but a large one in this chapter. She helps bring out Janie’s utmost care for Tea Cake. The resulting fight and love making that ensue the misunderstanding between Tea Cake and Nunkie was because of Nunkie. In a way, Janie and Tea Cake can thank Nunkie for bringing them even closer together.

3. “Whut would Ah do wid dat lil chunk of a woman wid you around? She ain’t good for nothin’ exceptin’ tuh set up in a corner by de kitchen stove and break wood over her head. You’se something tuh make uh man forgit tuh git old and forgit tuh die.” Once again, this quote supports Tea Cake’s devotion to his lovely wife, and ensures the reader that neither of the characters is going to have a fissure in their relationship any time soon.

4. This chapter definitely addresses relationships between the sexes with the whole suspicion of Tea Cake cheating and his and Janie’s subsequent love making. This chapter also shows that Janie’s independence as a free woman is now gone, and she is entirely emotionally dependent on Tea Cake.

Chapter 16: Mrs. Turner

1. The cultivating season has ended, and many of the migrant workers have left the muck. Janie and Tea Cake remain, however, and a bigoted and prejudiced woman named Mrs. Turner befriends Janie for her white features. Even though Mrs. Turner praises her for her “non negro qualities”, Janie finds her very rude but does not shun her presence. Mrs. Turner owns a shop on the muck, but she ironically hates all of her dark skin customers. Tea Cake hears of Mrs. Turner’s views and says he will boycott her restaurant for her racism.

2. Mrs. Turner says, “Mis’ Woods, Ah have often said to mah husband, Ah don’t see how uh lady like Mis’ Woods can stand all them common niggers round her place all de time.” Mrs. Turner’s best attribute is her friendliness, but her worst is her racism towards black people. Mrs. Turner plays quite a significant role in the last quarter of the book. She is the one who enrages Tea Cake to strike Janie in later chapters. She also caused a lot of trouble between Janie and Tea Cake when she spoke of her brother who would supposedly sweep Janie off her feet and take care of her better than the black Tea Cake could. Mrs. Turner also brings the important motif of racism to surface, which was very prevalent at the time of the writing of this book. Her bigoted ways show different parts of Janie’s and Tea Cakes personalities when speaking with her.

3. “Anyone who looked more white folkish than herself was better than she was in her criteria, therefore it was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was cruel to those more negroid than herself in direct ratio to their negroness.” This quote shows Mrs. Turner’s reasoning for being a racist, and almost mathematically explains her relationship with blacks and whites.

4. This chapter definitely addresses Local Color and Race and Racism, as the dark color of the migrants’ skin and the racism associated is all spoken of incessantly by Mrs. Turner.

Chapter 17: Role of the Husband

1. The migrants soon return to the Everglades to work on the muck. Mrs. Turner’s brother has also come to chase down Janie, and this distresses Tea Cake very much. He then makes a plan to assert his position as a husband by slapping Janie. This assures everybody, including Mrs. Turner and her brother, that Janie is his wife and that their relationship is not to be toyed with. Later on, a drunken bar fight is let loose in Mrs. Turner’s restaurant and Tea Cake tries to stop it for Mrs. Turner’s sake. After the fight, and after she has been trampled by dirty drunk men, Mrs. Turner is angered with her husband’s lack of action to break up the fight.

2. Sop-de-Bottom says, “Tea Cake, you sho is a lucky man. Uh person can see every place you hit her. Ah bet she never raised her ahnd tuh hit yuh back neither.” Sop-de-Bottom has a good attribute of being an understanding friend of Tea Cake’s, but he is jealous of the fact that Tea Cake could strike his woman, which is definitely not a noble action. Sop-de-Bottom himself is one of Tea Cake’s friends that understand him well. He appears in the last quarter of the book, and is somewhat crucial to the theme of judgment. Later on, when Janie kills Tea Cake, it was Sop-de-Bottom and Tea Cakes other friends that were judging Janie based on the limited information they knew. Sop-de-Bottom also helps Tea Cake remember how important Janie is to her husband, and helps Tea Cake cope with himself after Tea Cake beat Janie.

3. “Janie is whatever Ah wants tuh be. Dat’s de kind uh wife she is and Ah love her for it…Ah didn’t wants tuh whup her last night…” This quote signifies Tea Cake’s apologetic feelings for hitting Janie. He did not want to hit her, but had to in order to assert his role as a husband.

4. This chapter relates with Power and Conquest as a means to fulfillment, as Tea Cake wants everyone to make sure that Janie is his. This chapter also speaks of many Colloquialisms, such as, “…When Ah git tuh peepin’ through mah likker, dey tell me Ah’m uh mess.”

Chapter 18: Fleeting Seminoles and a Nearing Storm

1. At first, most people don’t heed the omens of the predicted storm. Tea Cake and Janie watch Seminoles leave the muck to high ground. Suddenly the hurricane hits, and a torrent of rain accompanied by gusts of wind and streaks of lighting engulf all who are still on the muck. People huddle together and pray to and ‘watch’ God. Janie and Tea Cake make an effort to go to high ground, but they are almost killed by the rolling gusts of rain and wind. Janie hangs on to a floating cow, and Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog in an attempt to try to save Janie from it.

2. One of the Seminoles says, “Going to high ground. Saw-grass bloom. Hurricane coming” This Seminole has a good attribute of having the patience to stop and explain why they are evacuating, but his tone of voice seems very cold. These Seminoles have been mentioned ever since Janie and Tea Cake made it onto the muck, but only now do they seem to have much significance. They signify a lesson that seems to engulf human life. ‘Those who are ignorant will suffer’ seems to be this lesson, and is reflected by the following acts of the hurricane causing much trouble to the married couple. Janie losing her husband and many others who did not heed the multiple warnings by the Seminoles and others symbolize the suffering of those who do not listen.

3. “They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” This quote must be significant because it is the title of the book. It means that the people caught in the storm were not looking at the storm (darkness) or the fleeing Seminoles, but were in prayer to God and were hoping for the best.

4. This chapter is all about the Hurricane, and so the storm is one of the motifs of this chapter. This chapter also mentions the Folklore Quality of Religion, as everyone seems to be in deep prayer during this dire time.

Chapter 19: Aftermath

1. After surviving torrents of water and wind, Janie and Tea Cake make their way to Palm Beach alive. Tea Cake must join the workers to clear the wreckage and the dead, and bury the blacks separately from the whites. Janie insists that Tea Cake should see a doctor, but his heroic qualities assure her he will be fine, so they leave back to the muck. Back in the Glades, Tea Cake finds that only one friend has died, and that Motor Boat slept through the storm while his house was swept away. Tea Cake soon shows signs of infection from the bite on his cheek, and by the time Janie calls the doctor, his death is assured. As Tea Cake’s mind slips away from him, he begins to have murderous feelings towards Janie, and soon Janie kills him as he attempts to shoot her four consecutive times. Janie gives him a magnificent burial, and after a short trial and a stay in the Glades, she heads back to Eatonville.

2. Tea Cake, in his rabid form, says, “Janie, Ah done went through everything tuh be good tuh you and it hurt me tuh mah heart tuh be ill treated lak Ah is.” Tea Cake’s best attribute was that he was a loving husband in his prime, but his worst attribute is that his last actions in life were trying to kill his wife. The rabid Tea Cake has been changed drastically from his lively self. He has become bedridden, and has painful contractions in his muscles. This form of Tea Cake is the best display of Janie’s utmost care for her beloved husband. His death brings up the important themes of periodic sadness for Janie and the biased judgment of Janie.

3. “No expensive veils and robes for Janie this time. She went on in her overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief.” This quote shows Janie’s attachment to Tea Cake, as her overalls reminded her most of the good times on the muck she had with Tea Cake. It also shows how she felt real grief for Tea Cake, as opposed to the fake grief she felt for Joe Starks.

4. A motif addressed in this chapter was the horizon, which was referred to when Janie speaks of Tea Cake as the son of the Evening Sun. This chapter also focuses on the aftermath of the hurricane, as well as race and racism when the white men forced the blacks to segregate the buryings.

Chapter 20: Return

1. After Tea Cake’s glorious funeral, Janie stays in the Everglades for several more weeks, but the pain of her memories are too much for her to bear. Janie gives away all she owns save for a package of seeds that remains as a memento of Tea Cake. This specific memento of Tea Cake might symbolize something about who he was. Consequently, she travels back to Eatonville, and disregards the townsfolk’s preconceived notions of her. The elongated flashback that this book was ends and returns to Chapter 1, where Janie was speaking to Pheoby.

2. Janie says “Ah went to the horizon and came back”. She has the best attribute of being a go getter and having a fiery personality. As a worst attribute, I would say Janie used to have an attribute of holding her tongue, but learnt that independence was a much sweeter notion. Janie has now come to the end of her story, and has learned a couple of important morals. One she believes in is that people must go to God. This means that people should understand their spiritual side. The other moral was that people must find out about living for themselves. She has gone to the edge of the world and back, and has lived a fulfilled life. Although the destination she reached was not quite what she expected, the journey was what made it worthwhile.

3. “Love is lak de sea. It’s a movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape form de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” This quote shows Janie’s experience with love, and shows that she has understood what love is. It is quite interesting to see the development from the innocent 17 year old girl to a matured woman, and how she finally was able to understand the complexities and fluidity of love.s

4. This chapter made a reference to the horizon, when Janie said she went to the horizon and back. She meant that she had seen all the world could show her, and that she was content in that aspect. This chapter also referred to the relationships between the sexes, as Janie is giving love advice to Pheoby. Finally, this chapter makes references to colloquialism and love and relationships versus independence, as Janie is now freer than she ever was, with her experiences with Tea Cake and her newfound understanding of love.


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