Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 5 | Summary



As Chapter 5 begins, Starks and Janie are traveling on a train to Maitland, Florida. Once they arrive, they take a buggy to the all-black town of Eatonville. After strolling around, Janie and Starks discover that there isn't much there. Starks meets Amos Hicks and Lee Coker. He tells them he wants to talk to the mayor, but he is told there is no mayor. That night, Starks announces his plans to invest in the town and calls for a meeting. Hicks tells the couple of a house they can rent. After the couple leaves, Hicks boasts that he is a ladies' man and will seduce Janie away from Starks.

Starks and Janie rent the house for a month. Starks buys 200 acres of land in the town from Captain Eaton, paying cash. Hicks tries to get Janie's attention and claims he is no longer interested because she is not pretty. Coker points out that he doesn't have enough money to seduce Janie away from her wealthy husband. He also states his appreciation for Starks and his belief that Starks will be able to achieve his goals of opening a store and running the town post office.

After Starks orders lumber to build his store, he holds a meeting on the porch of his rented house. Tony Taylor acts as the chairman. The committee chooses a day for making roads; Starks hires Taylor and Coker to build his store. Starks tries to get people to move to the new town, and within six weeks, ten additional families settle there.

To celebrate the opening of the new store, Janie dresses up and welcomes people. Starks serves crackers and cheese, and Janie serves fresh lemonade. Starks urges the residents to incorporate the town and elect a mayor. Taylor proposes Starks for mayor, and everyone agrees. Then Taylor calls on Janie to say a few words, but Starks says she doesn't know how to make a speech. As a woman, "her place is in de home."

On the walk home after the party, Janie feels distant from Starks because he didn't give her a chance to speak. Starks tells Janie that he will be too busy now to help her with the store, so she will have to manage on her own. Bothered by darkness during their walk, Starks decides to purchase a street lamp with his own money.

When it is time for the official lighting of the street lamp, the residents of Eatonville hold a pig roast. The men take care of the barbecue, and the women bring pies and cakes. Starks makes another speech, and Thad Davis chants a prayer-poem. Then Mrs. Bogle sings a hymn, and everyone enjoys the barbecue.

Starks continues his ambitious program of development. He creates drainage; has a two-story house built for himself and Janie; and takes on multiple roles as mayor, postmaster, storekeeper, and landlord. As Starks becomes more and more successful, some townspeople become resentful, thinking he is too full of himself. Still, most townspeople recognize his contributions.


Hurston uses parallelism at the beginning of Chapter 5 to continue the sense of foreboding that ended Chapter 4. On the train the day after the wedding, Starks "didn't make many speeches with rhymes" to Janie. This comment recalls an observation at the beginning of Chapter 4, when the narrator notes that, before their first year of marriage was complete, Killicks "stopped talking in rhymes."

Chapter 5 advances the plot by adding further details to flesh out Janie's life story and by revealing the complexity of her relationship with Starks. Readers begin to see more fully what Starks is like and how domineering he can be. Sam Watson observes that Starks is "de wind" and the townspeople are "de grass" to explain how much power he exerts on their lives. Starks's ambition is admirable, and he is relentless in pursuing his dreams of success—so much so that he duplicates a plantation-style house when he builds his own large home and aggressively pursues modern improvements such as drainage, lighting, and roadways. The reactions to Starks connect to the theme of judgment. A major figure in the town, he is always being assessed by its residents. On balance, the view recognizes both his achievements and his flaws; people, the narrator says, had a "basketful of feelings good and bad" about Joe's role in their lives and his achievements.

Starks's power connects to the themes of independence and race. When told that there is no mayor, Starks incredulously asks Amos Hicks and Lee Coker who tells people what to do. Coker responds they don't need a mayor because all the people are adults and can make their own decisions. Starks does not believe in independence; he believes in leaders. Coker's view of Starks reflects the theme of race. He finds Starks's ambitions and dreams unusual for an African American. He admires the man's drive and believes Starks can accomplish what he sets out to do.

Starks's actions and words also touch on the issue of gender identity. When he discusses the meeting to talk about developing the town, Starks says the men should get together. Decision making and public affairs are in the male province. His dismissal of Tony Taylor's suggestion that Janie speak reflects this view as well. While Starks wants to be a "big voice," he does not let Janie speak for herself. This incident also reflects the motif of silence and speaking. Janie, of course, chafes at having her voice suppressed and her life dictated. Forced to work in the store, she feels unfulfilled and controlled by her husband. Speech can be abusive, too—Starks "gits on her" when she does something wrong at the store. The symbol of this control is the head rag.

Although Janie has long, straight hair, Starks makes her wear a head rag when she works at the store. Making Janie wear a head rag illustrates Starks's controlling personality. The porch sitters, judging the marriage from outside, marvel that a young woman like her allows herself to wear the head rag and look like an old woman. Rather than being able to express herself, Janie seems more oppressed by Starks than she did in her marriage with Logan Killicks.

Documents for Chapter 5

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Questions for Chapter 5

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Can you check my mechanic of writing such as grammar and others. If you can add some information, it's fine . Thank you. Part 1: Refer to this week's reading and reflect on networks you use at home or
Choose one of the readings from chapters 2-6 and summarize, explain, and evaluate the main points of the reading in a minimum of 3 paragraphs. Do not simply cut and paste from the reading, but summari
I have a homework assignment hoping that you will help me out reaching the best answers! The assignment is to read the Hedges "Death of the libera l Class." and a 2 page typed Rhetorical Analysis is d
Assignment Prepare a detailed outline for your research paper and send it to your mentor. Be sure to review the material on outline development in Research for Writers , Chapter 5.
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