Their Eyes Were Watching God (2024)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 17


Before long, the seasonal workers on the muck begin returning, and Mrs. Turner's brother arrives to chase after Janie, according to his sister's plan. It is then that Tea Cake conceives a plan that involves slapping Janie. For him, slapping his wife is an assertion of his role as a husband, and it is a gesture that the other migrants, as well as Mrs. Turner, will understand. Janie has been hit before, however. Joe struck her more than once.

A fight breaks out at Mrs. Turner's restaurant between several drunken migrant workers. Tea Cake joins the fight after he is unable to stop it. Mrs. Turner becomes angry with her husband because he failed to break up the brawl.


Tea Cake begins to identify Janie as his possession. Because he feels threatened after Janie meets Mrs. Turner's brother, he strikes his wife to reassure himself that Janie belongs to him and no one else. Tea Cake doesn't believe that Janie did anything to deserve her beating; rather "it relieved that awful fear inside him." Also, Tea Cake wants to send a message to the Turners that he is in control. He confides to Sop-de-Bottom that it is Mrs. Turner's fault that he hit Janie because she sent her brother "tuh bait Janie in and take her away from me." Beating Janie stems from Tea Cake's need to control her, his jealousy, and the fear of losing his wife. Ironically, it is this type of control that caused Janie's isolation from Joe. In the beginning of her relationship with Tea Cake, he represented freedom for Janie. Now, however, Tea Cake is exerting the same domination over Janie that Joe did.

It is possible that Tea Cake and his friends allowed the fight to escalate into a brawl at the restaurant. Mrs. Turner angered Tea Cake when she sent her brother to try to lure Janie away from Tea Cake. Perhaps Tea Cake and his friends hope that the physical damage caused at the restaurant will serve as an act of revenge for the emotional damage caused by Mrs. Turner's bigotry.


peart lively, chipper, sprightly, smart, and so on.

fracas a noisy fight or loud quarrel; brawl.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (2024)


What is the main idea of Their Eyes Were Watching God? ›

Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is, at its heart, a story that validates the potency of love. The narrative follows the protagonist, Janie, on her search for an ideal love—which becomes a simultaneous search for herself.

What is the literal meaning of Their Eyes Were Watching God? ›

Andrew Ruble Fate and self-determination are important themes within the story. " Their eyes were watching God" is another way of saying, "They were watching closely in order to predict fate", or. "Their eyes were watching nature unfold."

Is Their Eyes Were Watching God hard to read? ›

The main thing I found difficult about the book was that much of Janie's story is rendered in vernacular. This does give it a fantastic sense of authenticity but, initially, I found it difficult to get to grips with and found myself having to re-read sentences to ensure I understood what was being said.

What is Zora Neale Hurston trying to say in Their Eyes Were Watching God? ›

Zora Neale Hurston

Set in the rural South, the novel vividly captures the cultural and social context of the time, including issues of race, gender, and class. Janie's story is a powerful exploration of identity, resilience, and the quest for autonomy in a society marked by racial and gendered oppression.

What is the moral lesson of Their Eyes Were Watching God? ›

What lesson does Janie learn in Their Eyes Were Watching God? Janie learns that she has a voice and her dreams and desires are just as valid as those of the men around her. She learns that she can be happy with a partner or by herself.

What did Janie sacrifice? ›

Nanny caused Janie to sacrifice the love she dreamed of. In her youth she had a great dream of a pear tree during which she came to realize what love was.

Why is Their Eyes Were Watching God so popular? ›

Published in 1937, Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is regarded as a groundbreaking piece of literature for its exploration of the self through the eyes of Janie Crawford, a romantic, resilient Black woman navigating three marriages in the early 20th century.

What does Janie's hair symbolize? ›

Hair. Janie's hair is a symbol of her power and unconventional identity; it represents her strength and individuality in three ways. First, it represents her independence and defiance of petty community standards.

What is the plot of the eyes were watching God? ›

Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of Janie Crawford, whose life is a quest to find true love. Janie narrates to her friend Phoeby the story of her three marriages and her search for love.

What is the point of view Their Eyes Are Watching God? ›

Their Eyes Were Watching God is told from the perspective of an omniscient third-person narrator, meaning the narrator has access to the inner lives of each character. Unlike Janie and the other characters, the narrator does not speak in the informal Southern dialect.

What does Their Eyes Were Watching God represent? ›

Hurston writes that they waited to see how nature would determine their fate: “They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” With this line, the characters recognize the lack of control they have over their own lives, and realize they can only be spared from the cruelty of nature if God sees ...

What is Hurston's message in their eyes? ›

Throughout the novel, Zora Neale Hurston presents the theme of love, or being in a relationship versus freedom and independence, that being in a relationship may hinder one's freedom and independence.

What is the story "Their Eyes Were Watching God" about? ›

The novel explores protagonist Janie Crawford's "ripening from a vibrant, but voiceless, teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny". Set in central and southern Florida in the early 20th century, the novel was initially poorly received.


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