Their Eyes Were Watching God (2024)

Summary and Analysis Chapter 13

Summary

Janie boards a train in Eatonville and goes to Jacksonville to marry Tea Cake. It leaves too early in the morning for many of the townsfolk to see her depart, but those who do report to the others how beautiful she looked.

Tea Cake is a man of his word: They are quickly married. However, his first act as a new husband is to disappear with $200 of Janie's money. Janie has visions of her fate being similar to that of Mrs. Tyler, an Eatonville woman who was seduced — and then abandoned — by a younger man; afterwards, she returned to Eatonville in a totally decrepit condition.

After hours of Janie's fretting and worrying, a smiling and joking Tea Cake finally returns. He explains that he did not run off with another woman and that he never has any intention of doing so. He confesses that when he accidentally spied the money that Janie had brought along as a sort of personal insurance, he couldn't resist the temptation to throw a huge party for the men who worked on the railroad gangs with him and their wives and friends.

Tea Cake describes the party, making Janie laugh when he tells her about the two dollar admission he charged ugly women. Janie would have gone to the party, she says, if he had come back for her; he didn't do that, he says, because he thought that she wouldn't like the people. Janie assures him that she does not "class off." People are people to her, and she'll accept his friends.

The money that Tea Cake took from Janie will be replaced through Tea Cake's skill in gambling. Winning the money, however, involves some risk. When one loser objects to Tea Cake's pulling out of the game with all of the money, he stabs Tea Cake twice in the back. Janie doctors Tea Cake's wounds, which are fortunately only superficial. His winnings total more than $300. When his wounds are healed, he tells her, they'll leave Jacksonville and go to work on the muck in the Everglades, around Clewiston and Belle Glade, working in cane, bean, and tomato fields.

Analysis

This chapter marks the beginning of a new phase in Janie's life. She leaves the town of Eatonville behind, along with the memories of Joe Starks and the judgmental townspeople. Janie embarks on a new life with her new love, Tea Cake.

Although Janie is madly in love with Tea Cake, her greatest fear is that he will leave her for another woman. When Tea Cake disappears with Janie's money, her fear becomes evident as she remembers Mrs. Annie Tyler and her experience with a much younger man. Her panic "made itself into pictures and hung around Janie's bedside all night long." Janie wants to believe that Tea Cake will return to her, but she seems to focus on the worst, probably because she has not experienced a truly loving and healthy relationship in her life.

Hurston also highlights class differences in this chapter. Tea Cake reveals to Janie that he didn't invite her to his party because the people there were not "high muckety mucks." According to Tea Cake, "Dem wuz railroad hands and dey womenfolks." He fears that Janie would not be accepting of these people, simply because she has been playing the role of "Mrs. Mayor Joe Starks" for a while. Tea Cake wanted Janie to see "no commonness" in him. They are able to resolve these class differences when Janie reveals to Tea Cake that she wants to be with him, no matter where he is or who his friends are.

Yet again, Janie realizes her powerful love for Tea Cake, especially after his absence and his injuries. She feels a "self-crushing" love for her husband. It is at this point that Janie's "soul crawled out from its hiding place." Janie is no longer controlled by a domineering husband or an overprotective grandmother. Finally, she has found true love for the first time with Tea Cake.

Glossary

two hundred dollars inside her shirt Janie is following some basic wisdom shared by wise women: Always have enough money on hand for your fare home — no matter who your date is.

twelve o'clock whistle Jacksonville is a railroad town, and railroad shops usually had loud whistles that sounded at regular times during the day.

pink silk vest Janie's "vest," or undershirt, is made of silk. Chances are that most of the women in Eatonville wore cotton underclothes.

round house a circular house building, with a turntable in the center, used for storing and repairing locomotives.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (2024)

FAQs

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.

Why were their eyes watching God criticized? ›

At the time of publication, many of Hurston's peers criticized her use of African-American dialect throughout the story. As an anthropologist, Hurston wanted to preserve her culture's oral tradition and successfully captured the essence of the African-American community's speech patterns on the page.

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 grade level is Their Eyes Were Watching God? ›

Their Eyes Were Watching God meets the standard for Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity for grades 11-12.

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.

Is "Their Eyes Were Watching God" a true story? ›

Perhaps the strongest inspiration for Hurston's writing of Their Eyes Were Watching God was her former lover Percival Punter. Hurston writes in her autobiography that the romance between Janie and Tea Cake was inspired by a tumultuous love affair.

Why were their eyes watching God banned? ›

Their Eyes Were Watching God

The story is set in early 20th Century Florida, and it follows the story of Janie Mae Crawford, who is described as an independent Black woman. In 1997, the text was banned after a parent of a Virginia high school student complained about its obscenity and sexual content.

What was one reason that Their Eyes Were Watching God was considered controversial _____? ›

One reason that "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston was considered controversial was because it portrayed black people's lives in a way that was not consistent with the mainstream view of black people's experiences at the time.In the early 20th century, white people's perceptions of black people's ...

Why does Tea Cake beat Janie? ›

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.

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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