Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Course Hero, "Their Eyes Were Watching God Study Guide," September 2, 2016, accessed September 25, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Their-Eyes-Were-Watching-God/.

Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Janie spends her time before the wedding asking questions and searching for answers, often visiting the pear tree. She concludes that she will come to love Logan Killicks after they marry. The wedding takes place in Nanny's parlor one Saturday evening. The newly married couple celebrates with cakes and fried rabbit and chicken. Afterward, Janie rides with her new husband to her new home, but it is "lonesome" and "absent of flavor."

After nearly three months of marriage, Janie visits Nanny. She is distressed because she does not love her husband, but Nanny, after determining that Killicks is not beating her, tells her she should be happy that she lives in a house on 60 acres of land and has the "onliest organ in town" in her parlor. Janie is nowhere near content, however, and complains that Logan Killicks is homely and dirty.

Nanny sends Janie home and prays for her. A month later, Nanny dies. By the time spring comes again, Janie still feels restless and dissatisfied. The chapter concludes with the observation that, with the death of Janie's fist dream, "she became a woman."

Analysis

Janie's first marriage represents the beginning of her journey toward self-understanding. After marrying Logan Killicks, Janie realizes that Nanny's arrangement is not what she wants. She feels depressed and confused by her loveless marriage and searches for something more fulfilling. The gate symbolizes her restlessness. She "began to stand around the gate and expect things," but doesn't know what she expects—or wants. At the beginning of the chapter, Janie believes that "Husbands and wives always loved each other." By the end of the chapter, Janie comes to an entirely different realization that marriage and love are not the same thing.

Janie's marriage to Killicks thus explores two of the novel's important themes: love and independence. While Janie hopes that she will eventually love her husband, this does not happen. Nanny discounts her granddaughter's desire for love, saying the search for love causes pain, making people work and suffer. Married to Killicks, Janie has the security of property. But Nanny's aspirations for Janie are not what Janie really wants. She does not share the value Nanny puts on security and safety. Instead, Janie longs for freedom and the power to make her own decisions: "She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether."

Throughout Chapter 3, Hurston refers to the motif of nature. Janie is attuned to the seasons and can hear "the words of the trees and the wind." She speaks to falling seeds. The pear tree symbol and related images frame the chapter. At the beginning, before her marriage to Logan Killicks, she visits the pear tree often, seeking answers to her questions about life, marriage, and love. At chapter's end, Janie reaches the first spring after her marriage, "when the pollen again gilded the sun." The pollen represents fertility and possibility, and the sun symbolizes enlightenment, fulfillment, change, and growth.

The symbol of the gate also recurs in the last paragraph. As Janie contemplates her life, "she hung over the gate." The phrase captures the tension Janie is experiencing. Part of her is stuck in the yard, but the upper part of her body—her head and heart, her sense of self and her emotional life—are already outside the confines of Killicks's farm. Here the symbol of the horizon is alluded to and the road symbol explicitly mentioned. While hanging over the gate Janie looks "up the road towards way off." Janie's "first dream" might have died, but not her ability to dream. She still harbors deep-seated wishes for fulfillment and love. Readers sense that she is poised for another life change.

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Questions for Chapter 3

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