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Their Eyes Were Watching God
Transcript of Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were
History during Publication
published September 1937
In the opening scene, Pheoby Watson's friends spot Janie and begin talking about her as if they really know her, when really, they have no idea what Janie's been through.
In the closing scene, Janie finishes telling her story to Phoebe and goes upstairs to her dreaded bedroom, but instead of dread she seems to find peace.
" There's some women dat jus' ain't for you tuh broach ... " (pg.39)
In 1937, The Southern Negro Youth Congress was formed. Members of this group helped to promote "prominent black leaders."
Joe Louis wins the heavyweight championship against James Braddock. This was a major upset because racism was still very prevalent during that time.
Broach means to not sort of bring up something difficult. Maybe its like even though he shouldn't and it's difficult to, he still goes after so many girls.
Janie finds peace in the closing scene, something shes been struggling to find since Tea Cake died. In this scene Janie decides she's going to grab life by the waist and keep living because even with out Tea Cake she has so much to live for. She doesn't need the love or comfort of a man to be happy, contrary to her thoughts prior throughout the rest of the novel.
In this scene, a few things are made clear:
There is a lot of jealousy and judgement surrounding Janie
Janie is a very, very beautiful woman who doesn't seem to care what people have to say about her
The people of the town know Janie left with Tea Cake and now that she's returned without him, they aren't quite sure what to make of it
Janie is telling Pheoby her life's story in hopes that she can better understand her
Finding a Voice
The Power of Silence
She is the main character of the whole story. She is a young and confused girl that has been mistreated and mislead by so many people and in so many ways. Due to that she leaves and walks away from the people that hurt her and even love her. She is filled with curiosity and confidence as well.
He was Janie's first husband. Janie married him because her Nanny said that she would have everything with him, but they both married without loving each other. He was an old, unattractive man. She eventually left him before he made her work in the farms.
He was Janie's second husband. He married Janie to have power and have everyone look up to him as the mayor. He was a cruel and conceited man that was uninterested in Janie. He just saw her as a trophy. He mistreated and abused Janie. Unfortunately he died. But once dead Janie lays down with him one last time.
He was Janie's third and final husband. He was the only one that treated Janie different. He treated Janie like an actual person. He loved her just as much as she loved him. He would always helped her achieve everything she ever wanted. He was a supportive, loving and caring husband. Even though he was much younger than her. Sadly the one man that she loved and that loved her back died. He got rabies and tried killing her. So she ended up shooting and killing him.
She is Janie's best friend. She is the ears and audience of Janie's story the whole entire time. She is the one person she trusts with everything. The only girl in the whole entire story that doesn't judge her nor envies her. She is the sophisticated and trustworthy friend.
"[Janie] must look on herself as the bell-cow, the other women were the gang." (pg. 41)
Jody wants Janie to feel good about herself and look good in front of everyone else, he wants to show her off because he thinks of her as only a trophy.
"Janie made her face laugh after a short pause, but it wasn't too easy. She had never thought of making a speech, and didn't know if she cared to make one at all... But anyway she went down the road that night behind [Jody] feeling cold." (pg.43)
Janie feels annoyed that Jody just interrupted her like that. I think the words "feeling cold" give away the feeling that she might be boiling on the inside, but shes not going to show him that shes really upset with him.
"[Jody] strode along invested with his new dignity, thought and planned out loud, unconscious of her thoughts." (pg. 43)
Janie's husband is really proud of himself for being the center of attention and he is completely ignorant of how she feels, and she is feeling very cruel and cold. He only thinks about himself, Janie is just a trophy.
"They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God."
The author's writing style was third person (omniscient) during the first two chapters because she was giving insight into the thoughts of Janie, Pheoby, and the women sitting on their porches. Even though the rest of the book was a flashback of Janie's life story, it was told in omniscient narrative. She uses a black, southern dialect add to the cultural background of the novel.
Love & Relationships
Janie spent a great deal of her life being stifled by Jody. She was never able to speak her thoughts or opinions or join in any conversations really for that matter. After Jody dies, she suddenly has all this freedom to do and say what she wants, and Tea Cake encourages her; however, now that she's found her voice, she learns how silence can say just as much.
In the story there are several occasions where it shows that humans have limited power, we can't control everything around us no matter how hard we may try to.
Jody tries to control the people in the town with money
Janie and Tea Cake, along with everyone else are powerless in the hurricane
An obvious theme of the book, is love and relationships. Janie struggles throughout her life to find a strong, healthy, loving relationship. She finds that in Tea Cake. She doesn't know what a relationship should feel like or what it really means to love someone until she meets him. While it may seem she's quick to go along with a man, she has to endure bad relationships to really appreciate what she had with Tea Cake.
When Janie tells her story to Pheoby, she tells of her spiritual journey to self-worth, confidence, independence, and happiness. She tells of her hardships and how they have made her stronger. The theme of fulfillment is also seen in Jody's attempt to conquer those around him. The book displays how different people seek different paths to achieve fulfillment.
After being forced into a loveless relationship by her grandmother, stifled by Jody's control, and her seemingly desperate quest for the love and comfort of a man, Janie finally finds her independence. Financially and emotionally, she becomes all that she needs to be happy.
Eatonville is supposed to be the first all black community in America. Jody brings Janie to the town along with his determination to have the town wrapped around his finger. Although the town tends to speculate too much about Janie her affairs, she still returns after having run away with and burying Tea Cake. It shows that the despite the townspeople's tendencies, this really is her home where she belongs.
The Everglades or The Muck
Janie and Tea Cake spend a lot of time here mainly so Tea Cake can get some good work; however they stay back after the work season ends. This demonstrates how Janie is very adaptable to new communities.
After the hurricane, Janie and Tea Cake find safety and shelter in Palm Beach, this is also where Tea Cake falls ill and where he is buried. The significance of this place is that while Janie knows a few of the community members because they also came from the Muck, she hardly knows anyone, and they don't know her. She is tried in a place where few people know her and her love for Tea Cake. This is the first time she's really felt this disconnected from her community.
Janie's hair pg. 2
Janie's hair symbolizes her independence and refusal to give into the community's expectations of her
Everywhere throughout the book
The author uses a rich, black, southern dialect to really enhance and emphasize Janie's culture and background.
The motif of community is expressed widely throughout the book
Janie shows a strong adaptability to new places and tends to be very interactive with others in her community. She enjoys the strong connections and safety that come along with community and despite the consistent gossip.
[Janie] was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.
The flowers & bees pg. 11
This metaphor represents reciprocal love. How love should give and take. The flowers and the bees each have something to offer each other, and both are satisfied. This kind of love is the love Janie searches for the entire novel.
The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. 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.
The Major Conflict pg. 160
This passage summarizes the main conflict and climax of the novel. The hurricane that threatens Janie and Tea Cake's lives. It supports the theme of the limit of human power. They are completely at the mercy of nature and God, and are watching and hoping they make it out alive.
Zora Neale Hurston was born January 7, 1891
She was the daughter of two former slaves
Graduated with an associates degree and paid for her education by working in a variety of jobs.
a.k.a. a coming of age novel
Typically characterized by
growth of the protagonist.
The story begins with Janie telling her closest friend Pheoby Watson about the story of her life in hopes that Pheoby might be able to better understand some of Janie's past decisions and her present outlook on life.
After while of being settled in the Everglades, a huge hurricane comes along and floods the entire town and surrounding areas. Janie gets stuck in the water with a rabid dog, so Tea Cake tried to save her; however, the dog bit Tea Cake and he later became infected with rabies. The two take refuge in Palm Beach, where, in a sickness-induced psychotic episode, Tea Cake tries to attack Janie. Fearful of her life, she shoots him, killing him nearly instantly.
Janie was later tried for murder, but was found innocent mainly because Tea Cake was a black man and realistically it didn't matter who Janie shot, so long as it wasn't a white person. Janie buries Tea Cake in Palm Beach and returns back to Eatonville. No one there knows what she's been through since she left so many years ago with Tea Cake.
Janie's grandmother, a former slave, raised Janie because her mother and father had run out on her long ago. Her grandmother was very strict and had very different morals from Janie. After she caught Janie kissing a boy, she immediately forced her into a marriage with an old farmer named Logan Killicks.
After a brief, loveless marriage with Logan Killicks, Janie runs away with Jody Starks. Jody is a wealthy man who plans to take Janie to a new town where the two of them will be very popular and powerful. He is very flattering and makes many promises to Janie, but in reality, due to her good looks, Janie is just a trophy wife to him. When they move to Eatonville, Jody becomes the mayor. Janie soon learns that Jody is very bitter and controlling. He falls ill and dies but not without making Janie feel bad about it first.
After Joe dies, Janie meets a man named Tea Cake. She's very cautious at first, but soon realizes that she's in love with him. Tea Cake was 12 years younger than Janie, so the town was very skeptical of their relationship. Janie really loves Tea Cake and is still able to maintain her independance in the relationship, unlike Jody. The two get married and after Janie is frightened for a moment he might leave her, the two are in love more than ever. They leave Eatonville behind along with everyone who disapproved of them.
Janie finishes telling Pheoby her story and after letting go of so many thoughts and feelings she had kept inside. She was finally able to find peace.
All those trapped in the storm are looking up to the sky, hoping and praying knowing they are at the mercy of nature and God.
"'You mean, you mad 'cause she didn't stop and tell us all her business. Anyhow, what you ever know her to do so bad as y'all make out? The worst thing Ah ever knowed her to do was taking a few years offa her age and dat ain't never harmed nobody. Y'all makes me tired. De way you talkin' you'd think de folks in dis town didn't do nothin' in de bed 'cept praise de Lawd. You have to 'scuse me, 'cause Ah'm bound to go take her some supper.' Pheoby stood up sharply." (pg. 3)