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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Peace Mutwiri

on 3 February 2015

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Transcript of Their Eyes Were Watching God

1. Consider Janie's comment to her husband, "'Scuse my freezolity, Mist' Killicks, but Ah don't mean to chop de first chip." What do you think the word "freezolity" means? What root words did Hurston combine to create this expression? What makes this term particularly effective?
3. Describe the circumstances of the first meeting between Janie and Joe Starks. What was Janie doing before she met him?
Describe your first impression of him.
Before she met Joe, she was 'fixin' the potatoes like her husband told her to.
When the author first describes Joe, we get a good idea of his character. "[He] was a cityfied, stylished dressed man with his hat set at an angle that didn't belong in these parts," (26). The reader is automatically aware that he isn't from the area Janie lives.
We also find that he has a friendly, and charismatic personality. We can also see that he dreams big and sets out to accomplish his goals.

5. The morning after Janie talks about leaving him, how does Logan treat Janie? Why do you think he behaves this way? How does Janie respond to him? Do you think he could have done anything that would have changed her decision to leave him?
After Janie informs Logan of her intentions, he becomes angry and treats his wife poorly, and sets her to do difficult chores that she normally doesn't partake in. He treats her as the mule of the family. Not only has Janie hurt Logan emotionally, but she has stripped him of his masculinity. Logan does not want to be depicted as the man who could not keep a wife and is insulted by Janie's overstep in gender roles. "You don't need mah help out dere, Logan. Youse in yo' place and Ah'm in mine," (30). This quote clearly shows her trying to take control of the relationship even though society would not accept this kind of role reversal. Although Logan was kind to Janie in the beginning of their marriage, his kindness was not enough to please his wife. Consequently, any further action would only strengthen Janie's decision to leave him and pursue a new life with Joe.
6. Consider the following passage from page 32: "The morning air was like a new dress. That made her feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it on a low branch beside the road and walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet." Explain why her actions are symbolic as well as literal.
7. Describe what Joe "Jody" Starks and Janie find when they arrive in Eatonville.
14. At the end of the chapter the narrator remarks that, "The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe's positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him." Explain the reasons behind both the good and bad feelings that the town holds regarding Joe. Which do you think he most deserves? Explain your answer.
4. Analyze the figurative language that Hurston uses on page 29 to describe Janie's feelings about Joe: "Janie pulled back a long time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon." What does this description suggest about the future of her relationship with Joe?
Janie longs for an intimate relationship that mimics the blossoming during spring. As seen in this quote, "the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and ecstatic shiver of the tree from the root to he tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage!" She had high expectations as to what marriage should be like. However, Joe did not represent the things Janie desired. He was closer to her requirements than Logan Killicks, but was still not close enough. Janie's relationship with Joe will not travel very far because it is founded on false hope. But in the moment, she is blinded by the feeling of what she thought was love, and didn't realize the faults in their marriage. Soon Janie will realize that Joe cannot fulfill her desires and can never be the person she wants him to become.
8. How much land did Starks purchase? Describe what he plans to do in Eatonville.
Rebecca was destined to marry Issac according to Issac's father Abraham, and God. It is said that they had a great physical connection with each other, but emotionally they were too different. They never shared what they were feeling with each other and were not open to what they wanted in the relationship, similar to Janie and Joe's interactions. It was mentioned that they had a deep physical connection, but Joe didn't care about what Janie had to say. Meanwhile, Janie never attempted to share her feelings. Consequently, closing themselves off foreshadowed a failed relationship.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
2. What is Killick's nickname for Janie? What does this suggest about his attitude towards her? What does Janie call her husband? What does this suggest about her feelings towards him?
Delaney Nowlan, Lauren Moghimi, and Peace Mutwiri
As Janie flings the apron around her waist, she throws away her responsibilities as Mrs. Killicks and departs from her old lifestyle. The untying of the apron is symbolic of starting anew and shows her hopes to be treated as an equal counterpart in the new relationship. She wishes to be treated as a person, not a working mule. Therefore, she is throwing away her past to start anew with Joe. "So they were married there before sundown, just like Joe had said. With new clothes of silk and wool," (31). This quote shows the beginning of her new life with the purchase of new clothes to fit into, and a new lifestyle to follow.
9. What is the first thing that Starks does to improve the town? Why is this important for the local economy?
10. At the opening of the store, Tony makes a speech about Mr. and Mrs. Starks and is chided for not comparing them to "Isaac and Rebecca at the well." Look up the story of Isaac and Rebecca and explain why this would or would not have been an appropriate comparison.
11. How does Joe respond when the townspeople ask Janie to make a little speech? What does his response suggest about his attitude towards Janie? Why is it symbolically significant that she views his response as "taking the bloom off things"?
12. After he opens the store, what is the second improvement Joe Starks makes in Eatonville? Why is this an important symbol for the town? How do Joe's remarks on page 45 demonstrate hubris?
13. Explain why Janie's role as the wife of the mayor makes her feel "cold and lonely"? How do the townspeople treat her?
"Looka heah, LilBit, help me out some. Cut up dese seed taters fuh me. Ah got tuh go step off a piece," (25).

Throughout the course of their marriage, it is apparent that Janie and her husband have grown tired of each other. Consequently, Janie refers to her husband as "Mist' Killicks" while he refers to her as "LilBit." The author uses these nicknames to emphasize the lack of respect they have for one another. Logan continuously acts as if he is superior to his spouse, causing Janie to become angered. Although she understands that she is unable to defy her husband and break the rules of society, Janie uses these conversations to regain the respect she deserves. Furthermore, the reader is able to sense mockery in their daily conservation that emphasizes the breakdown of their marriage.
"Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' bout no speech-makin', Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's uh women and her place is in de home," (40-41).
'Freezolity' could mean having a lack of interest or to show indifference. In the context, Janie explains how she is "Just as stiff as [her husband] is stout," (25). Janie was raised to let her husband make all the decisions but in this quote she is almost mocking the idea and she shows that she hates to be indifferent. She tells that she has opinions but he doesn't care to hear them, so she never shares them.
What are some of the goals he shares with Janie?
Do they seem reasonable at the time?
How does Joe compare to Logan?
How has the idea of how women should behave played a major role in this book? How does the standard of women affect Janie's thoughts and actions? How do these affect her response to his criticism?
Why do you think the town does not want change from Starks?
Why was Janie's decision to leave Mr. Killicks and marry Joe so sudden?
"God, they call this a town? Why, 'tain't nothing but a raw place in de woods," (32). It was barren, desolate and nothing like they expected. There were no stores, or important buildings. Only a few run-down, and scattered houses. There were also very few people to meet. And those who did live in the town appear distant from more urban ways of living.
How does this compare to what Janie and Joe imagined? Do the conditions of the town put a strain on their relationship?
"A man dat ups and buys two hundred acres uh land at one whack and pays cash for it," (36). Starks buys plenty of land to begin his plans for Eatonville in hopes of turning it into a large town. He wants to build government buildings, stores, large roads and plenty of other places.
How does Starks' investment in the town cause him to put his and Janie's relationship 'on the back burner'? Which does he care more about, the town, or Janie?
"Yeah, uh store right heah in town wid everything in it you needs. 'Tain't uh bit uh use in everybody proagin' way over tuh Maitland tuh buy uh little meal and flour when they could git it right heah," (37). This is the best first step to establishing a town because a store will encourage the people to become self-sufficient. It will boost the local economy and allow for more money to be put towards the town in order to renovate Eatonville.
Why do you think is Joe trying so hard to improve this town? What do his progressive plans towards renovating the town show about him?
"It must have been the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another that took the bloom off of things," (41). The way he made decisions for her made the relationship strained and caused them to become closed off from one another.
Which other signs or events showed a possible downfall in their relationship? Were there any other issues that had they resolved, they would have been able to save their relationship?
Although Joe initially intended to bring forth peace and prosperity to the community, his authority has become burdensome for the townspeople. Despite his good intentions, power has caused him to become prideful and oppressive to members of the community. Nevertheless, those around him have no choice but to stand back and admire him because to them, "De town wouldn't be nothin' if it wasn't for him" (46).
Have you noticed any other made up words used in this novel?
Why do you think Janie maintained her marriage after her grandmother had passed? Did she have a choice?
Which false hopes and desires was their marriage founded upon?

Do you think Janie realized that her feelings towards Joe were not genuine?
Why do you think Joe doesn't want his wife to prosper? Are there situations where male dominance in the household symbolizes love between husband and wife?
"Nobody had ever thought of street lamps and some of them said it was a useless notion...The whole town got vain after it came," (41).

"Maybe more things in the world besides spitting pots had been hid from them, when they wasn't told no better than to spit in tomato cans" (45)
The streetlight that Joe adds to the town can represent the beginning of change. The townspeople are exposed to a new concept of towns they had never thought was important.
"She slept with authority and so she was part of it in the town mind. She couldn't get but so close to most of them in spirit" (44).
As the wife of the mayor, she spends a lot of time assisting her husband with small tasks and acting as a trophy wife while he leads meetings and has structures built. In addition to this, the townspeople fear her in the same way they do Joe because they are aware of how much power they hold.
Do you think she is more unhappy with her marriage now than when she was with Mr. Killicks?

If you were placed in the novel, would you stand up against Joe's oppressive rule? How would you approach the town's problems if you were in Joe's position?
"Speakin' of winds, he's de wind and we'se de grass. We bend which ever way he blows" (46).

"They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down" (47).
It is apparent that Joe feels threatened by the thought of his wife possessing the same educational qualities he has. Joe's comment not only exemplifies male dominance during this time period but further spoils Janie's image of her perfect husband.
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