Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. Chapter One. What do you think the author means when she says, “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board”?. It is a metaphor for dreams and the idiom “his ship will come in.”
What do you think the author means when she says, “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board”? It is a metaphor for dreams and the idiom “his ship will come in.” For some, their dreams will arrive the way they want them to; for others, they will never achieve their dream.
2. Who do you think the “Watcher” is in the first paragraph? “For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation…” (1) Depending on the interpretation, the “Watcher” is: God The dreamer himself/herself
3. What literary device is being used in the phrase: “…mocked to death by Time?” What does this phrase mean? Personification Meaning = There is often not enough time for dreams to come true Life, like time, is fleeting
4. What literary device is being used in the phrase: “The sun had gone, but had left his footprints in the sky”? What do you think this means? Personification Meaning = The sun had gone down, and in its stead left the stars
5. What literary device is being used in the sentence: “Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song”? How could you interpret its meaning? Personification Meaning = There were words being used or thrown out that were indecipherable, or whose speaker cannot be identified, but they came out of several mouths at one time, almost like singers in a chorus singing the same phrase
6. Describe the mood at the beginning of chapter one. How do the people’s reactions to the woman contribute to the mood? The mood is somber, unsettling, confused, insecure, and suspicious. The people’s gossip helps contribute to the speculation and suspicion. We feel as uncomfortable as Janie feels returning home, having everyone voice their assumptions about what had happened to her.
7. What do we learn about Janie from this chapter? Find 4 examples from the text that describe her either physically or emotionally. She has been gone awhile and is returning; she left in a blue dress, and came back in overalls. There is speculation that her lover took her money and ran off with another woman; she was much older than her lover. Examples vary. (Discuss)
1. What “discovery” did Janie make about herself when she was very young? She became aware that she was black “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) She doesn’t recognize herself in a photograph “But before Ah seen the de picture Ah thought Ah wuz just like de rest.” (9)
2. Why was Janie raised by her grandmother? Janie’s mother ran off; Janie’s father, who had raped her mother, was running from the law “…Ah never called mah Grandma nothin’ but Nanny, ‘cause dat’s what everybody on de place called her.” (8)
3. Who was Janie’s grandfather (Leafy’s father)? Janie’s grandfather was a white slave owner Leafy was the byproduct of sexual assault/rape
4. Why did Nanny run away from the plantation? She was going to be whipped to near death for having the Master’s baby. Upon people realizing Leafy resembled the white slave master, Nanny knew she had to escape in order to save herself and Leafy
5. Why did Nanny want Janie to marry Logan Killicks? So that she could have a stable, comfortable life, and be watched after. “You aint got nobody but me. And mah head is ole and tilted towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo’self. De thought uh you bein’ kicked around from pillar tuh post is uh hurtin’ thing. Every tear you drop squeezes a cup uh blood outa mah heart. Ah got tuh try and do for you befo’ mah head is cold.” (15)
6. What happened to Janie’s mother at age 17? What happens as a result? She was raped by a white man and became pregnant with Janie. “And after you were born she took to drinkin’ likker and stayin’ out nights. Couldn’t git her to stay here and nowhere else. Lawd knows where she is right now…” (19)
7. Who was Janie’s father? Janie’s father was a white man, her school teacher, who ran off the night he raped Leafy.
8. What does Nanny mean when she says that she is a “cracked plate”? Answers may vary: Nanny is saying she is old and fragile, and to go easy on her. Nanny’s fragility is not something she wishes upon Janie She wishes for sympathy from Janie before her death “Put me down easy” (20)
1. What ideals does Janie have about love? She has a very idealistic and romantic view. She feels she will be swept away in bliss “…Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so… Janie felt glad of the thought, for then it wouldn’t seem so destructive and mouldy. She wouldn’t be lonely anymore.” Janie marries Logan for others’ expectations, for the comfort and protection marriage offers, but not out of love
2. What does Janie believe will happen after she and Logan get married? She will fall in love with him and experience the type of love she has always dreamed about. She expects love to happen and begins to worry when she doesn’t feel love for Logan “The new moon has been up and down three times before she got worried in mind.” (22)
3. How does Janie feel about her husband? Although he takes care of her, she is repulsed by him and certainly doesn’t love him. “Ah’d ruther be shot wid tacks than tuh turn over in de bed and stir up de air whilst he is in dere… Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree…” (24)
4. What is Nanny’s advice to Janie? Nanny’s advice for Janie is to be patient and wait for love to come “Better leave things de way dey is. Youse young yet. No tellin’ whut mout happen befo’ you die. Wait awhile, baby. Yo’ mind will change.” (24)
5. What do you think the narrator means when she says” She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether”? Answers may vary: The world was a breeding place for new life (stallion) in the universe (blue pasture of ether) The world goes around and life goes on no matter what.
6. Analyze the following: “Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.” How does this statement relate to claims made in chapter one that “the dream is the truth”? Answers may vary: Janie’s first dream (her romantic ideal of the way love should be) was dead, so she had her first real disappointment in life. This statement of the death of her dream means that to her, her life begins with this disappointment; this disappointment is her reality—she will have to make the best of her life from then on.
1. How has Janie’s marriage to Logan changed since they were first married? Logan doesn’t show much love or attention; he wants Janie to work hard labor next to him. “…Janie noticed that her husband had stopped talking in rhymes to her.” (26) “You ain’t got no mo’ business wid uh plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday!” (Joe Starks, 29)
2. What does Logan want Janie to do with the mule he plans to bring back from town? He wants her to work on a plow in the field with him. “Ah aims tuh run two plows…” (Logan, 27)
3. Describe Joe Starks. How does Janie act when she first meets him? He is well-groomed, attractive, stylishly-dressed; “seal-brown” in color; self-assured and driven. “He whistled… like he knew where he was going.” (27) Janie is flirtatious and naïve. She offers him “sweeten’ water,” to which Joe replies, “Never specks to get too old to enjoy syrup sweeten’ water when it’s cools and nice” (28)
4. Where does Joe want to go? Why? Joe has saved money to go to Eatonville, Florida He wants to be a part of the all-black community. “He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de sayso where he comes from and everywhere else, exceptin’ dis place dat colored folks was buildin’ theirselves.” (28)
5. Why do you think Janie is so attracted to Joe? Answers will vary. He says the right things She is attracted to him, whereas she was just forced into the relationship with Logan. He is well-dressed and seems to know what he wants out of life. She may be attracted physically, but also attracted to the possibility of being treated better, since he is such a smooth talker.
6. What happens to trigger Janie’s final decision to leave Logan? He wants her to plow the field; Janie refuses. “Ah’m too honest and hard-workin’ for anybody in yo’ family, dat’s de reason you don’t want me!” (Logan, 32)
7. What expectations does Janie have about her new marriage to Joe? Janie expects that things will be better now; that Joe will show her what real love is. “The morning road air was like a new dress. That made her feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet… From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom.” (32)
1. Why do you think Hurston begins Chapter 5 with the sentence “On the train the next day, Joe didn’t make many speeches with rhymes to her…” Why is this sentence familiar? She wants to make the reader believe that Janie has finally found love. This is familiar because Logan is previously referred to as making speeches with rhymes.
2. What is Janie and Joe’s first impression of the town? They are not very impressed; they expected better. “Why, ‘tain’t nothing but a raw place in de woods… A whole heap uh talk and nobody doin’ nothin’” (Joe, 34) “It is a whole heap littler than I thought.” (Janie, 34)
3. When Joe realizes what the town is really like, what does he plan to do? He wants to organize the town and elect a Mayor. He also wants to build up as many buildings and homes as possible to make the town more impressive. “Ah’m buyin’ in here, and buyin’ in big.” (Joe, 35)
4. What do you think of Amos Hicks and Lee Coker? What do their personalities and behavior tell you about the town? Answers will vary. They are slow, uneducated and seem lazy. They do not seem like the type that will be too interested in Starks’s plan. The town may react the same way.
5. Why do you think Joe Starks is so set upon building a store and a post office? What does this tell you about his personality and motives? They are landmarks for the town. He wants to build a great black city, and a post office and store represent the beginnings. For a black town to have a post office means that it is a nationally recognized site. He is driven and ambitious. He may do anything to get what he wants, even if that means treating the others poorly. He has the personality of a white plantation master.
6. How do the townspeople reward Starks? They elect him mayor of the town “Ah kin see dat dis town is full uh union and love. Ah means to put mah hands tuh de plow heah, and strain every nerve tuh make dis town de metropolis uh de state.” (Joe, 42)
7. How does Joe treat Janie? What does/doesn’t he allow her to do? He treats her as if she is fragile. He doesn’t want her to do anything but make him look good. He doesn’t allow her to talk to the people she wants to, or socialize with the “common” man. He prevents her from addressing the townspeople after he is elected mayor “She’s uh woman and her place is in de home.” (43)
8. What is symbolic about the streetlamp that Starks bought? Answers will vary. The light is symbolic in several ways: It may be symbolic of Starks’s “white” influence overtaking the town It can be a Biblical allusion to Genesis, “Let there be light.” Starks wishes to shed light on Eatonville’s success/garner respect from outsiders
9. How does Janie feel about her marriage to Joe? She feels that it is unequal; he puts her on a pedestal and won’t let her become her own self. “…it just looks lak it keeps us in some way we ain’t natural wid one ‘nother. You’se always off talkin’ and fixin’ things, and Ah feels lak Ah’m jus’ markin’ time.” (Janie to Joe, 46) She feels lonely. “A feeling of coldness and fear took over her. She felt far away from things…” (46)
10. How is Janie treated as the Mayor’s wife? She is treated as untouchable; she is put on a pedestal by the town also People say she doesn’t talk much and when she does, they are polite and distant.
11. What is symbolic about the way Starks paints his house? It is painted white—a symbol of his “whiteness” dominating the town. White typically signifies purity; however, in this instance it typifies more of a sense of control and immorality “…he’s the wind and we’se de grass. We bend whichever way he blows… Some folks need thrones…” (Sam Watson, 49)
12. What do the townspeople notice about the way Joe treats Janie? He is bossy and rude to her; he controls her and doesn’t allow her to speak. “She sho don’t talk much. De way he rears and pitches in de store sometimes when she make uh mistake is sort of ungodly, but she don’t seem to mind at all.” (Eatonville resident, 50)
1. How do the men at the store tease Matt Bonner about his mule? Sam, Lige and Walter say that he works his mule to death; the mule is old and close to death because of him. “De womenfolks got yo’ mule… usin’ his sides for a washboard.” (Sam, 52) “’Tain’t no feed cup you measures dat cawn outa. It’s uh tea cup.” (Sam, 52)
2. Why is Janie having such a hard time managing the store? She has trouble with the math—making change, measurements. “…she’d make the wrong change for stamps… she couldn’t read everybody’s writing… She went through many silent rebellions over things like that.” (54)
3. Why does Starks buy the mule from Matt Bonner? Starks buys Matt’s mule that he can be the one to “free” the mule. Janie acknowledges the unfair treatment of the “poor brute beast” “A little war of defense for helpless things was going on inside her.” (57)
4. How is freeing the mule symbolic? To whom do the townspeople compare Starks? It represents how Starks feels power over the people of Eatonville; how he has taken the role of the slave master or liberator (Janie connects him to Abraham Lincoln) Also, the mule represents women (think back to Nanny’s “mule” speech). In this way, the freeing of the mule can be the freeing of Janie from Starks, or the freeing of women from men’s rule or control. The townspeople compare Starks to a white slave owner running them.
5. Why doesn’t Joe allow Janie to go to the “draggin’-out”? He thinks that she is too good to go to something so base and common. Is this a means to control her? Is he subjecting her to become the type of woman he wishes for her to be without acknowledging the type of woman she wishes to be? “…the carcass moved off with the town, and left Janie standing in the doorway.” (60)
6. Why do you think Hurston included the strange funeral ceremony among the buzzards? Answers will vary. To integrate the African-American ritual and tradition. It shows the importance of song and ritual, as well as the talking animal element of folklore. It also brings in a bit of comic relief to the story at this point.
7. Why does Joe think that Janie is being ungrateful? She wants to be able to be her own person, and do what Starks forbids her to do. Starks thinks she is being ungrateful by wanting to be like a common, average woman when he has worked to put them both in a position of authority and respect, and he thinks Janie doesn’t appreciate all he’s done.
8. According to Sam and Lige, what is it that keeps a man from being burned on the stove? Who do you think ‘wins’ the argument? Sam and Life engage in what is commonly referred to as “playing the dozens.” They debate the age-old nature versus nurture question. These “porch” conversations are another element of the heritage of African-Americans. Continue to next slide
It is caution: We don’t touch a hot stove because if we knew not to touch a hot stove because it was in our nature, then we wouldn’t have to watch to make sure babies don’t touch it. (Lige) God made nature and everything else. It is nature that keeps a man from touching a hot stove. Nature made caution, which keeps us from touching a hot stove. (Sam)
9. What does Hurston mean when she writes, “The bed was no longer a daisy-field for her and Joe to play in”? There was no passion or love between them. It was no longer fun and playful. This counteracts/returns to the flower symbols, (“picking flowers and making a bouquet”, “flower dust”) used by Hurston earlier (end of chapter 4), when Janie’s intention to leave for Eatontown with Joe was hopeful and fresh
1. How is Janie able to “tolerate” her relationship with Jody? She ignores him and stays out of his way as much as possible. “The years took all the fight out of Janie’s face… She learned how to talk some and leave some… she lived between her hat and her heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods– come and gone with the sun… She got so she received all things with the stolidness of the earth which soaks up urine and perfume with the same indifference.” (76-77)
2. What does the narrator mean by “For the first time she could see a man’s head naked of its skull”? For the first time, Janie really knows what Joe is thinking and how he works. She has become more wise. Janie begins to observe and acknowledge Joe’s old age and decline in health Her future with Joe, all of a sudden, seems narrow. “She just measured out a little time for him and set it aside to wait.” (78)
3. Why did the narrator say that the incident with the tobacco was “like somebody snatched off part of a woman’s clothes while she wasn’t looking and the streets were crowded”? Janie was truly humiliated and publically shamed Mixon treated Janie’s mistake as a joke; Joe treats her mistake as a disaster Janie stands up for herself in front of everyone for the first time, demonstrating a new side of the mayor’s wife not previously witnessed “You big-bellies round here and put out a lot of brag, but ‘tain’t nothin’ to it but yo’ big voice.” (Janie, 79)
4. How old are Janie and Jody now? Janie is almost forty and Jody is almost fifty. “…Ah’m nearly forty and you’se nearly fifty… Ah ain’t no young girl no mo’ but den Ah ain’t no old woman neither.” (Janie, 79)
5. How does Janie insult Jody about his age? She says “When you pull down yo’ britches, you look like de change of life.” “…Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistable maleness that all men cherish.” (79)
6. How does Jody react to the insult? He reacts violently, out of humiliation, and slaps her “…she had cast down his empty armor before men and they had laughed, would keep on laughing. When he paraded his possessions hereafter, they would not consider the two together. They’d look with envy at the things and pity the man that owned them… Joe Starks didn’t know the words for all of this, but he knew the feeling. So he struck Janie with all of his might and drove her from the store.” (80)
1. Why does Janie feel bad about hurting Joe? She feels bad because she doesn’t like hurting anyone— even when the hurting seems justified. “Why must Joe be so mad with her for making him look small when he did it to her all the time. Had been doing it for years.” (81) “Ah’d ruther be dead than for Jody to think that Ah’d hurt him… God in heben knows Ah wouldn’t do one thing tuh hurt nobody. It’s too underhand and mean.” (Janie to Phoebe, 82)
2. What do the townspeople believe Janie has done to Joe? They believe she poisoned him for purposes of revenge Irony = For close to twenty years, Jody has been poisoning/slowly killing Janie’s dreams/hopes
3. What is wrong with Joe? He is dying of kidney failure. “When a man’s kidney’s stop working altogether, there is no way for him to live. He needed medical attention two years ago. Too late now.” (the doctor, 83)
4. What does the author mean by: “She was liable to find a feather from his wings lying in her yard any day now”? He was going to die any day. Irony = Janie sees death as an eternal being (“Been standing there before there was a where or a when or a then”) when death really introduces people to eternity. Janie’s concept of death is a vacuum – a space "without sides and without a roof" – signaling the emptiness and eternity of death.
5. Why does Janie visit Jody on his deathbed? What does she say? She wants to set things straight between them. She wants him to know that she wanted the best when they got married, but things fell apart as he became more and more greedy and controlling. She wants him to know that she never wished him ill-will, but that she grew to resent him because of the way she was treated.
6. On at least two occasions, Hurston refers to death as “square-toed”, which means exceedingly proper or straight-laced. Why might Hurston describe death in this manner? Answers will vary. Death is proper because it always does what it is supposed to do. It creeps in unnoticed and disappears unnoticed.
7. Why is it that one of the first things Janie does after Jody’s death is let her hair down? It is symbolic of her new freedom from the control and tyranny of their marriage. “She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there.“ Janie’s womanhood is still in tact; it is something that not even Jody- nor anyone- could take from her Years of confinement and concealment vanish
1. What do you think the author means by “She sent her face to Joe’s funeral, and herself went rollicking with springtime across the world”? Answers will vary. She attended his funeral physically appearing to mourn, but in her spirit, she was rejoicing that she was finally free from Joe Starks. She burns all of her head rags and begins to wear her hair in a long braid again
2. Why does Janie hate her grandmother so much? Her grandmother made her marry Logan, and it was with this marriage that Janie lost who she was as a person. She blames her for being the person she became. Janie was never able to live her own life since Nanny made her marry Logan. Janie is now free to live her own life, and to do what she wants to do.
3. What does the author mean by “Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine”? The narrator describes how God made man—that he made him out of a jewel, but then the angels got jealous of the shine, and broke up the shine. Then they were beaten to sparks and covered with mud. This is symbolic of the spirit and spark in people that has been lost. Janie knew she had a spark buried deep inside her, and wanted to remove the mud and shine again. She means that everyone else is also trying to find their own “shine.”
4. How have the men been treating Janie since Joe’s death? What is Janie’s reaction to these men? No suitors have come to see her in six months. They are treating her as if she is fragile and helpless. They try to take care of her in every way. Janie has no interest in them, and often finds their gestures humorous and silly.
5. What does Janie mean when she says, “Let ‘em say whut deh wants tuh, Pheoby. To my thinkin’ mourning oughtn’t tuh last longer’n grief”? Why is this statement important to Janie and her journey? Janie is not sad about Joe’s death. She should not have to pretend that she is in mourning for his death when she is not really grieving over him. She knew that Joe’s death was imminent and had prepared herself for mourning before his death; she has also been waiting for liberation all her life
1. Where has everyone gone, leaving Janie alone? Everyone has gone to a baseball game This sets the stage for her chance encounter with Tea Cake While everyone goes off to see a game, Janie is about to play a game
2. What is Tea Cake’s real name? Judging from his nickname alone, what kind of person do you think Tea Cake is? Tea Cake = Vergible Woods. Answers will vary: Sweet? Good natured? Companion? Playful?
3. How is Tea Cake different from the other men of Eatonville? He treats Janie as an equal. He doesn’t put her down, nor does he treat her as “fragile.” Janie has already begun to develop a strong, independent sense of self Tea Cake acts as catalyst and supports her rather than stifling her
4. What is Janie’s reaction to Tea Cake? She is intrigued and attracted to him, but cautious Janie’s quest for the “horizon” is not one involving materialism (Jody); rather, the pursuit of her goals should be spiritual/mystical (Tea Cake) However, she is so unaccustomed to being involved with a man so concerned with things beyond material life that she sees Tea Cake as ‘too good to be true.’