BC: Read the book to discover the tragic ending of Janie's life lessons.
FC: By Andrea, Lauren, Max, Natalie, Zoe, Kayla, Stephanie, and Becca
1: Summary | Returning to Eatonville, Florida after running off with her third husband, beautiful Janie Crawford faces the judgments and criticisms of her former acquaintances. With her good friend Pheoby still by her side, Janie tells her story from her beginnings with her grandmother living with a white family to her experiences with three different husbands. The reader can follow Janie as she grows and develops with each husband by learning to follow her heart and finding herself. | "Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves"
2: Reactions | All members of our group really enjoyed the novel. | "A good tale of a woman finding her voice." -Stephanie | We all thought it was very empowering to women. | We felt that a lot of guys might not like it because it is very geared toward women. | "It was insightful and moving. I learned so many life lessons." -Andrea
3: "A good tale of a woman finding her voice." -Stephanie | "I was pleasantly surprised." -Zoe | "I will never see rabid animals the same way!" -Max
4: Zora Neale Hurston | Social Impact of Their Eyes Were Watching God
5: "But for most black women readers discovering Their Eyes for the first time, What was most compelling was the figure of janie crawford-powerful, articulate, self-reliant, and radically different from any woman character they had ever before encountered in literature (ix)". | "Here, finally, was a woman on a quest for her own identity..." (ix).
6: Literary Connection | Their Eyes Were Watching God is similar to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
7: Common Theme: Women Becoming Independent | Both women are able to become independent throughout these novels. Although most women during these time periods relied heavily on men, both Janie and Hester did not. | Janie and Hester take a journey. The journey may be a long and treacherous struggle, but in the end they are able to become independent, respectable women. These transformations are inspirational to women everywhere.
8: Love and Relationships | From the beginning of the novel, Janie is very interested in finding love After her experience under the pear tree, the reader notes that Janie appears to be very naive about love and marriage | "Did marriage end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated? Did marriage compel love like the sun the day?...Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant." -Page 20
9: Logan Killicks | Janie's first marriage is to Logan The marriage is arranged by her grandma. Nanny picked Logan because of his wealth and 60 acres of land. Logan is emotionally shut down, and soon ruins Janie's image of true love Logan tries to make Janie work. She does not think she should have to do anything, and soon runs away. | "She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman." -Page 24
10: Joe Starks | Janie leaves Logan and elopes with Joe Janie is first attracted to him for his suave appearance and charismatic nature They move to the black town Eatonville, where Joe comes to be the mayor Janie begins to resent Joe for inhibiting her independence and trying to control her
11: "Anybody that didn't know would have thought that things had blown over, it looked so quiet and peaceful around. But the stillness was the sleep of swords... She didn't want to live like that." -Page 77
12: Vergible "Tea Cake" Woods | Janie meets the much younger Tea Cake after Joe dies The town does not approve of Tea Cake The two of them leave Eatonville to start a life in the Everglades Janie is very happy in the Glades. Tea Cake loves and respects her, and she him Tea Cake allows Janie to exhibit her independence
13: "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." -Page 122
14: Janie's Relationship With Nanny | Nanny represents safety. She was born into slavery and was raped by her master. Because Nanny encountered so many hardships, her main goal was to protect Janie. Nanny to Janie: "Tain't Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have baby, it's protection" (14). She believes Janie must marry a decent man and do his work if she wants to live a good life. Nanny thinks she is helping Janie even though she is forcing her to marry a man she doesn't love.
15: Although Janie initially believes her grandmother is trying to do what is best for her, she later resents her grandmother because Nanny never lets Janie find true love. After her second husband Jody dies, Janie realizes that she has never been able to live for herself and she blames her grandmother. | "She hated her grandmother and had hidden it from herself all these years under a cloak of pity..."(85). | Resentment develops
16: "But Nanny belonged to that other kind that loved to deal in scraps. Her Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon-for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you-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" (89). | Janie represents risks. Unlike Nanny, She is willing to take risks in order to be happy.
17: Nanny also tells Janie that she needs a man once she dies. Nanny to Janie: "You ain't got nobody but me. And mah head is ole and tilted towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo'self" (15). | Tone Between Nanny and Janie: Nanny often speaks to Janie in a condescending tone. Nanny believes Janie is naive about life. Nanny thinks she knows what is best for her and only forces the marriage with Logan because she loves Janie.
18: Janie's Self Discovery | Janie transforms from a young lady who stands behind her husband to a strong-willed, independent woman. When growing up she believes that she will find true love with whomever she marries. She is forced to marry Logan Killicks, and she acknowledges that there is no possibility that she will ever love him. After she meets Joe Starks and he promises to marry her, she challenges Logan for the first time, empowering herself. Yet she falls back into being a woman with no voice once she lives with Jody. She finally stands up for herself again when he relentlessly makes fun of her appearance. She ridicules him in front of the entire town and he later becomes ill. When Joe dies Janie is given freedom like she has never had before. She is able to turn down countless suitors, but later sacrifices her freedom because she has found true love with Tea Cake.
19: She knows that she deserves a good life, and will not settle for anything less. While married to Tea Cake, Janie is able to speak her mind and take part in activities she has never done before such as hunting and playing checkers. Also, when Tea Cake is struggling she is able to help him and show her worth. When Janie returns to Eatonville there is a lot of gossip surrounding her, yet she is satisfied with her life and who she has become, therefore she does not fight the criticism. | "Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman." This quote is referring to Janie after she came to the conclusion that she is unable to love Logan and believes she will never love anyone. It shows how common it was during this time period for women to be unhappy with their lives.
20: Gender Seperation | "Ah aims tuh run two plows, and dis man ah'm talkin' 'bout is got uh mule all gentled up so even a woman can handle 'im" (p26) | "...but mah wife don't know nothing 'bout no speech-makin-Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's a woman and her place is in de home"(p40) | -Logan wants to buy a gentle mule because he wants Janie to work but he underestimates Janie's ability to control a mule. | -Jody does not allow Janie to make a speech. He thinks her proper place is only only in her house, where she is capable of accomplishing tasks. | being a woman, Janie faces many prejudices:
21: -Tea Cake whips Janie out of jealousy to assure that she still belongs to him. By doing this he is treating her as if she is his property, not his wife. | -The other town residents are jealous of Tea Cake and Janie's relationship because not many other women would take a beating and not do anything about it. | "Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved the awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession."(p140) | "The way he petted and pampered her as if those two or three face slaps had nearly killed her made the women see visions and the helpless way she hung on him made men dream dreams."(p140)
22: "Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. | Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly." (1)
23: This passage establishes: The Hurstson's perspective on gender difference. Throughout the novel she focuses on the idea that men and women need each other for certain things -Janie searches for someone to love and who will provide her with what she does not have -Logan, Jody, and Teacake wish to fill their respective needs Foreshadowing displays women as strong and defiant stating that while men never really reach for their dreams, women will go through great lengths to chase their dreams. Throughout the novel the reader follows Janie's battles and struggles in order to achieve her dream.
24: Nature Throughout the novel, the constant use of imagery regarding nature plays an important role in symbolizing certain important themes and also helps move certain events along. | The Famous scene of the Pear Tree is an example of how nature is incorporated into the story: "From barren brown stems to glistening leaf buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom." Personification and Metaphor are also used: "...The gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze..." "The older woman sat bolt upright and thrust back the leaves from her face"
25: The Hurricane, which is a major climactic event in the novel exemplifies the destructive power of nature. "So when Janie looked out of her door she saw the drifting mists gathered in the west-that cloud field of the sky-to arm themselves with thunders and march forth against the world." | The Horizon is also a common reference to nature that is made: "She pulled in her horizon like a great fish net."
26: SYMBOLISM | Throughout the novel, Zora Neale Hurston portrays several important ideas using symbolism.
27: The first quote describes Jody's death, and how fighting death does no good. It proves that nobody has complete control like Jody believed he had. The second quote almost evokes a sympathy for Death because it shows his loneliness and inability to change what he does. Unfortunately he has to be the one to take people away from the world. | Symbolism of Death | "The icy sword of the square-toed one had cut off his breath and left his hands in a pose of agonizing protest" | "And then again Him-with-the-square-toes had gone back to his house. He stood once more and again in his high flat house without sides to it and without a roof with his soulless sword standing upright in his hand." | These quotes are talking about the character Death in the novel.
28: Symbolism of Hair | Janie's hair represents her femininity and independence Because Janie's hair is so attractive to men, Joe forces her to hide it under head rags. The rags symbolize how men in a position of power force women to abide by their control. At first when Joe dies, Janie "tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then combed her hair back up again. Then she starched and ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see..." Janie takes down her hair, showing that her independence is still present. She replaces her hair as it was because she is still controlled by Joe and the ideals that the society has set up. However,
29: once she does not care what society thinks she burns the head rags. This is her last act of defiance against Joe, and for the rest of the novel, she exhibits her independence with her hair down. There is a balance of independence and control with Tea Cake, so she is able to keep her hair free.
30: Symbolism of The Hurricane | The Hurricane symbolizes almost the opposite of the horizon and the pear tree. Both the pear tree and the horizon stand for beauty and hope while the Hurricane symbolizes how chaotic and destructive life can be. The Hurricane also forces characters to question themselves and God.
31: "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."
32: Janie's relationship with God is not clear in the book In fact her involvement with the church is minimal compared with that of many other African Americans. Yet It appears in a few places, and most importantly it appears at one of the story's climaxes. Janie has gone through a lot in life by now she has lived poorly with her grandmother, comfortably on a farm, wealthy and as a local aristocrat, and now two years in the swamps of southern Florida. Now she and her 3rd husband watch the closed door of their shack as the world around them is consumed by the rising waters. Here Janie attributes the storm to God saying "Ole Massa is doing His work now. Us oughta keep quiet". Later, they huddle together "They seemed to be looking at the dark, but their eyes were watching God" Zora Neale Hurston names the book after this line, demonstrating the recognition of God's power over people
33: “Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches” (8).
34: Janie repeatedly compares her life to a blossoming pear tree. This begins in the second chapter with Janie spending most of her days under a pear tree. Janie is beginning to tell her story. Still a young girl, Janie wonders about her life and the world but is kept contained by her grandmother. The beauty, aroma, and freedom seen by Janie in the pear tree are astonishing to her. The pear tree makes Janie wonder and ask questions. She compares her growing self to its leaves and blossoms. Janie longs to bloom freely like the pear tree. Janie also obtains her first conception of marriage from the pear tree watching as a bumblebee lands on a blossom. Janie calls this “a revelation.” This idea Janie formulates that marriage is the perfect harmony of two beings, is a concept that she finds difficulty discovering truth in. I think that Janie is not afraid to learn this truth about love as much it hurts her to learn and crushes her dreams. Janie does not want to be protected; she wants to go out into the world and learn about life for herself. The pear tree represents hers yearnings and desires at the start of the novel when she is still a child and throughout her first marriage, during which Janie is relatively nave to love. As Janie grows and is forced to several self-realizations from her marriages, she separates from the blossoming pear tree. Janie has already blossomed into a woman, and she has learned about love for herself.
35: She 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 form 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. (10-11)
36: “So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time. But when the pollen again gilded around the sun and sifted down through on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things. What things? She didn’t know exactly. Her breath was gusty and short. She knew things that nobody had ever told her. For instance, the words of the trees and the wind. She often spoke to falling seeds and said, ‘Ah hope you fall on soft ground,’ because she had heard seeds saying that to each other as they passed. She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether. She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up. It was wonderful to see it take form with the sun emerge from the gray dust of its making. The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off” (23-24)
37: First marriage to Logan Killicks “The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree” (13). ~ thought by Janie “ ‘Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think.’ ” (23) ~ Janie Janie listens to her Grandmother and does not leave Logan. However, Janie waits for her marriage to become true love. Janie’s waiting coincides with the seasons of the pear tree. When the pear tree stops blooming for the season, Janie realizes her marriage with Logan will never amount to her dreams of marriage.
38: Second Marriage with Jody Starks “Janie pulled back a long time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance. Still she hung back. The memory of Nanny was still powerful and strong” (28). Janie is afraid to let herself fall in love with Joe because she cannot relate him to the beauty and certainty of the blossoming pear tree, but rather compares him to the expansive horizon filled that seems overwhelming for Janie. “From now until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them” (31). Jody’s strength as a man and promises to treat Janie better establish him with the pear tree in Janie’s mind. As she leaves Logan, the pear tree represents her blossoming freedom. “She wasn’t petal-open anymore with him” (67). “She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be” (68). During her marriage with Jody, Janie begins to dream less of the pear tree and associating it with freedom.
39: With Jody’s death, Janie feels freedom and relief, yet this is one of her final associations of freedom and springtime, or the blossoming of the pear tree. Janie turns from the pear tree symbolizing freedom, instead to vast horizon. The horizon coincides with Janie’s becoming a woman and growing to realize more about life and love. Janie can no longer dream with the pear tree. Her childhood is gone and her dreams of marriage and love have been trodden on by a dominant male presence. The horizon represents Janie’s longing to grow as a woman and no longer be in a position of submission. Janie describes herself as a spark that had tried to overcome its loneliness and shine, but could not be seen through the mud of society. She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her (85).
40: The Horizon | "Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes!" (184)
41: When Janie climbs the blossoming pear tree, she first notices the horizon. She decides that she wants to make a journey to the horizon, which represents a far away mystery of the natural world. When Janie left Eatonville at sunrise to marryTea Cake, she has hopes that the journey will take her to the horizon.The horizon symbolizes Janie's lifelong search for true love and happiness
42: Matt Bonner’s mule is a very important symbol in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Matt Bonner is made fun of by the other town members for having a mule that he uses for work. They tease Matt because he mule is too thin and very mean-tempered. One day, Matt loses his mule and the other men decide to try and capture the mule. The mule behaves very violently, and the men tease and harass the mule. Janie feels terrible for the mule and speaks to herself about her frustration with the men. Jody overhears her and stops the men’s behavior. Later, he buys the mule from Matt, stating that it is so the mule can enjoy its last days well-fed and with rest rather than working. The mule becomes a revered presence in the town. All the people love him | and concoct fun stories about the mule. He lives for several more months before he dies. A funeral is held for the mule. He is carried to a tree outside the town with all the people present to celebrate his life and Jody giving a speech. The mule is said to go to heaven and watch down on Matt Bonner plowing. The mule is then left to the buzzards.
43: The symbolism of the mule is a very interesting aspect of the story. The life of the mule is in some ways a satire of society and human nature. The mule’s enslavement represents the enslavement of African-Americans. The mule is first looked down upon as something to control and use for work. When the mule is freed by Jody, a superior of the town, the people suddenly feel compelled to treat the mule kindly and celebrate its freedom. They can relate to its predicament, because in many ways their freeing the mule and making him an equal in their society gives them hope that one day they will be treated equally with white people. The mule represents the African-American journey and dream that surrounds the story. The death of the mule is also an interesting symbolism. When the mule dies, the people view the death of their dream as a prospective step towards it becoming a reality. The way they flock | to the mule’s funeral seems silly. The buzzards that surround the mule mock the people. The way the buzzards surround their prey is a satire of the way the town surrounded the mule for the funeral. As the buzzards wait to eat the mule, they call him a man and say he has died of “bare fat.” Their circling of their prey, the mule, also represents the white people dominating the African-Americans in society. White people anticipate the further oppression of African-Americans in society.
44: In the late summer, the community around lake Okeechobee notices some strange events around them Many of the villagers around them leave, but they decide to stay. the Hurricane comes while they sit in their shed by the banks of the lake and so happens Janie's strongest encounter with God
45: Soon after Janie and Tea Cake get married they retreat to what is commonly called the muck. This begins the last phase of the book. They make a living growing and picking beans near lake Okeechobee an area known for excellent growing conditions. Janie and Tea Cake enjoy two years in the everglades but are then confronted with a common regional disaster - the hurricane
46: Their Eyes Were Watching God also explores many aspects of human nature with figurative language. At the very beginning of the story, Janie returns to Eatonville and the women of the town are sitting on a porch. The author collectively refers to the women as “the porch.” This reference changes the mood of the scene. As the women concoct rumors and denounce Janie, they are only trying to suppress their jealousy of her to make themselves feel better. Janie and her friend Pheoby have learned that talking and gossiping is not the way to learn in life. Another interesting way the author explores human nature is again on the porch. The men of Eatonville create questions to debate about and prove each other wrong. One of the questions is very insightful, debating caution versus nature, yet is told from the somewhat illiterate point of view of two of the men of the town. From these arguments, the reader sees the quality of human beings to wonder and argue, to most often unknowingly find answers to life’s questions.