Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

After a year of marriage, Killicks is less patient with Janie's independent ways. He tells her to bring into the house the wood that he has split; Janie refuses. He compares her to his first wife and tells her she's spoiled. He asks Janie to cut seed potatoes up while he goes out of town to buy a second mule. While Killicks is away, Janie sits outside cutting the potatoes. She hears some whistling coming down the road. Soon the well-dressed, handsome Joe Starks appears. He stops for a drink of water.

Starks tells Janie about his plans to settle in an all-black town in Florida, where he hopes to be "a big voice." He asks Janie where her parents are and finds out that her parents and grandmother are dead and she is a married woman. Janie tells Starks that her husband has gone to purchase a mule so that she can plow, too. Starks tells Janie she is too good to be plowing and working on the farm.

For the next few weeks, Starks and Janie meet every day and talk. Gradually, they become closer and closer. Starks tells Janie that he wants to marry her. Janie wakes her husband and asks Killicks what he would do if she left him. He is hurt but refuses to believe that Janie will leave him because he thinks no one else will have her.

The next morning, Janie decides to leave her husband and go with Starks. They leave in a hired carriage for the town of Green Cove Springs, where they get married when they arrive.

Analysis

One theme in the novel is independence. Chapter 4 illustrates how much Janie longs for freedom and what she is willing to risk. To Janie, Joe Starks "spoke for change and chance." When she leaves Logan Killicks, she feels liberated. She believes that a life with Joe will be better than the life she has with Logan. The symbols of the horizon and the gate are connected to this belief. For Janie, Starks represents freedom and opportunity because "he spoke for far horizon." She hurries "out of the front gate" to meet Starks and go away with him.

This chapter also develops the theme of love, once again using images associated with the pear tree and blossoms to do so. Janie believes that she has finally found the passionate love match she is looking for when she meets Joe Starks, whom she sees as a "bee for her bloom."

In this chapter the characters of Logan Killicks and Janie are more fully developed. For example, Killicks is frustrated by what he sees as Janie's unwillingness to work. He resents her for her threat to leave him but is pragmatic, refusing to "worry mah gut" over what might happen. Of course, that refusal also reveals a lack of empathy; he cannot fully understand Janie or the power of her dreams. The chapter also further reveals Janie's immaturity. After making her decision to leave with Starks, she naively believes that her life would be "flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything." Despite Janie's childish optimism, the chapter concludes with an ominous image. As Janie and Joe Starks sit on the porch, they watch the sun go down. Rather than a lovely sunset, though, they see the sun "plunge into the same crack in the earth from which the night emerged."

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