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Biblical Allusions in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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MacKenzie Sheetz

on 11 September 2015

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Transcript of Biblical Allusions in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Judgement Day
Pear Tree
Hurricane
Tea Cake: Christ Figure
“Yeah, Sam say most of ‘em goes to church so they’ll be sure to rise in Judgment. Dat’s de day dat every secret is s’posed to be made known.” (6)

Conclusions
The novel progresses chronologically with the Bible.
Biblical Allusions in
Their Eyes Were Watching God

Analyze the symbolic incorporation of the tree. What purpose does it serve? What parallels does it draw?
After Janie was involved with Logan Killicks she realized that the life she dreamed about under the pear tree wasn't her reality.
"Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage, lak when you sit under a pear tree and think." (p 24)
Innocence Lost
Opener Free Write
Summary & Literary Criticism
Discussion
Fruit of trees must be tasted to provide protagonists the self-knowledge necessary for personal growth, redemption, and deliverance" (Weathers).
Temptation
Janie is extremely pure and innocent until her first creative impulse.
"She (Nanny) bolted upright and peered out of the window and saw Johnny Taylor lacerating her Jannie with a kiss" (12).
Nanny Symbolizes God in the Garden of Eden
Like God, Nanny imposes a death sentence on Janie when she insists her marriage to a man with the chilling name of Killicks (Weather).
Difference between Janie and Nanny:
Nanny sees the pear tree as a tree of death and shame.
Janie sees the pear tree as beautiful, natural, and pure.
"She searched as much of the world as she could from the top of the front steps... waiting for the world to be made" (11).
"So she extended herself outside of her dream and went inside of the house. That was the end of her childhood" (12).
Reality
Pear Tree= Garden of Eden, innocence
Flood=Cleansing of sin, test of faith
Tea Cake= Christ (savior)
Judgement Day= Ending
According to Foster, Christ figures are generally Christian males around the age of 33 who demonstrate many parallels between their actions and biblical lessons (pg. 119). With this in mind, do you believe that Hurston intended Tea Cake to be a Christ-figure? Support your claims with evidence from the book.
Discussion Question
How might the hurricane compare to acts of God in the bible?
"They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if HE meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. (160)
Self-Sacrificing
In Agony
Humble Modes of Transportation
Affiliation with Water
Name some parallels between the novel and biblical allusion.
Tea Cake initially walked miles just to be with Janie and then walked back to return to work.
"Tea Cake split the water like an otter." pg. 166
"‘… he’d be walkin’ on water lak Peter befo’ he knowed it’" pg. 97
How do your parallels add meaning to the novel?
Whether parting the water or walking on water, it is evident that Tea Cake's interactions with water parallel that of Jesus's.
In Tea Cake's final days, it was clear that the rabies left him in agony. He was unable to drink any water and was forced to stay in bed all day. This caused physical and later mental pain, as he lost control of himself.
“Tea Cake, the son of Evening Sun, had to die for loving her.” (pg. 178)

"Ah jus' know dat God snatched me out de fire through you." (pg. 180)
Question: The novel's action begins and ends with two judgment scenes. Why are both groups of people judging her? Is either correct in its assessment?

What is the significance of Hurston incorporating the references to Tea Cake and the tree, which is symbolic of the garden of Eden, in the quotes below?

Tea Cake makes Jane feel like a “blossoming pear tree in spring” (pg. 106).

“The seeds reminded Janie of Tea Cake more than anything else because he was always planting things. [...] Now that she was home, she meant to plant them for remembrance.” (pg. 191)
Tea Cake and the Tree
“They all leaned over to listen while she talked. First thing she had to remember was she was not at home. She was in the courthouse fighting something and it wasn’t death. It was worth than death" (187).
"She had been spending every minute that she could steal from her chores under that tree for the last three days, ever since the first bloom had opened. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom. She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Through pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up the road. In her former blindness she had known him as shiftless Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes." (pg. 10)
"Nanny's head and face looked like the standing roots of some old tree that had been torn away by storm. Foundation of ancient power that no longer mattered." (pg. 12)
Summary
The Hurricane is an allusion to the great Flood in the Bible.
“If castles thought themselves secure, the cabins needn’t worry. Their decision was already made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds and await on the mercy of the Lord.” (pg. 158)
“A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing. Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, ‘Big Massa draw him chair upstairs.’ Janie said: ‘Ole Massa is doin’
His
work now. Us oughta keep quiet.” (pg. 159)
Quotes from the Novel relating the Hurricane to the Great Flood
Noah's Ark
"Ole Motor! De son of a gun laid up in dat house and slept and de lake come moved de house way off somewhere and Motor didn't know nothin' 'bout it till de storm wuz 'bout over." (pg. 173)
-Hurston is strengthening the allusion to the Great Flood by creating an allusion to Noah's Ark.
Discussion Question
What might the mad dog which attacked Tea Cake symbolize in reference to the Bible, and what is the significance that Tea Cake was attacked by the dog in his efforts to save Janie?
Also consider Janie's incursion with the mad dog, and how she fell into the water.
Janie's entire experience with Tea Cake, brought to an end by her near-death experience by drowning, serves as a baptism for her. She becomes a new person, with individuality.
Discussion Question
How to Read Literature Like A Professor taught us to pay close attention to how someone survives drowning, whether it be rising up, grabbing driftwood, or swimming out. Janie survived from Tea Cake's illness from being in the floodwater with the dog… Could this have been Janie’s cleanse relating to baptism for her to start another independent life?
"Ah jus' know dat God snatched me out de fire through you, Tea Cake. (Janie, pg. 180)
Tea Cake sacrifices himself to save Janie on numerous occasions, such as the flood.
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