One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live... read more
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The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby can tell Janie's story to the nosy community on... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
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The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby can tell Janie's story to the nosy community on her behalf. Her life has three major periods corresponding to her marriages to three very different men.
Nanny, Janie's grandmother, was a slave who became pregnant by her owner and gave birth to a daughter, Leafy. Though Nanny tries to create a good life for her daughter, Leafy is raped by her school teacher and she becomes pregnant with Janie. Shortly after Janie's birth, Leafy begins to drink and stay out at night. Eventually, she runs away leaving Janie with Nanny. Nanny transfers all the hopes she had for Leafy to Janie. When Janie is sixteen, Nanny sees her kissing a neighborhood boy, Johnny Taylor, and fears that Janie will become a "mule" to some man. Nanny arranges for Janie to marry Logan Killicks, an older man and farmer who is looking for a wife to keep his home and help on the farm. Although Janie was not interested in marriage at that time, her grandmother wanted her to have the kinds of things she never had the chance to have, and by marrying Logan Killicks Janie's grandmother thought it gave her the opportunity to make this possible.<15> Janie has the idea that marriage must involve love, forged in a pivotal early scene where she sees bees pollinating a pear tree, and believes that marriage is the human equivalent to this natural process. Logan Killicks, however, wants a domestic helper rather than a lover or partner, and after he tries to force her to help him with the hard labor of the farm, Janie runs off with the glib Jody (Joe) Starks, who takes her to Eatonville.
Starks arrives in Eatonville to find the residents devoid of ambition, so he arranges to buy more land from the neighboring landowner, hires some local residents to build a general store for him to own and run, and the people of the town appoint him mayor. Janie soon realizes that Joe wants her as a trophy wife. He wants the image of his perfect wife to reinforce his powerful position in town, as he asks her to run the store but forbids her from participating in the substantial social life that occurs on the store's front porch.
After Starks passes away, Janie finds herself financially independent and beset with suitors, some of whom are men of some means or have prestigious occupations, but she falls in love with a drifter and gambler named Vergible Woods who goes by the name of Tea Cake throughout the story. She falls in love with Tea Cake after he plays the guitar for her. She sells the store and the two head to Jacksonville and get married, only to move to the Everglades region ("the muck") soon after for Tea Cake to find work planting and harvesting beans. While their relationship has its ups and downs, including mutual bouts of jealousy, Janie now has the marriage with love that she had wanted.
The area is hit by the great Okeechobee hurricane, and while Tea Cake and Janie survive it, Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie from drowning. He contracts the disease himself. He ultimately tries to shoot Janie with his pistol, but she shoots him with a rifle in self-defense. She is charged with murder. At the trial, Tea Cake's black, male friends show up to oppose her, while a group of local white women arrive to support her. The all-white jury acquits Janie, and she gives Tea Cake a lavish funeral. Tea Cake's friends forgive her, and they want her to remain in the Everglades. However, she decides to return to Eatonville, only to find the residents gossiping about her.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”Janie
“The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky.”Narrator
“You can't beat nobody down so low till you rob 'em of they will.”Nanny
“Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”Narrator
“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.”Narrator
“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 starting at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”Narrator
“She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people.”Narrator
“An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.”Pheoby
“Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high, but they wasn’t no pulpit for me.”Nanny
“Love ain't something like a grind stone that's the same thing everywhere and do the same thing to everything it touch. Love is like the sea, it's a moving thing.But still and all it takes its shape from the shore it meets and it's different with every shore.”Janie
“...'cause dey's parched up from not knowing things.”
“Two things ereybody's got to do for they selves, the got to go to God and they got to find out about living for they selves”Janie
They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.Highlighted by 481 Kindle customers
Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”Highlighted by 413 Kindle customers
She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.Highlighted by 352 Kindle customers
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.”Highlighted by 338 Kindle customers
There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.Highlighted by 310 Kindle customers
All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshipped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.Highlighted by 301 Kindle customers
Us colored folks is too envious of one ’nother. Dat’s how come us don’t git no further than us do. Us talks about de white man keepin’ us down! Shucks! He don’t have tuh. Us keeps our own selves down.”Highlighted by 270 Kindle customers
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.Highlighted by 250 Kindle customers
An envious heart makes a treacherous ear. They done ‘heard’ ’bout you just what they hope done happened.”Highlighted by 219 Kindle customers
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.Highlighted by 215 Kindle customers
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