Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 9 | Summary



Chapter 9 describes Joe Starks's elaborate funeral. People ride in cars and on horseback, and the Elks's band plays. After the funeral, Janie burns all of her head rags in a final act of defiance. She can now wear her hair as she wishes, so she decides to wear it in one thick braid. Otherwise, there are few outward changes in her life after Starks's death. Janie continues to run the store as she did before, only now she is able to sit on the porch and listen to conversations.

Having gained her freedom, Janie isn't sure what she wants to do next. She realizes that she has no interest in finding her mother and that she has hated Nanny for pushing her to pursue material comforts rather than true love. These realizations represent some of the internal changes Janie is experiencing in the wake of her husband's death. A wealthy widow, Janie is subjected to unwanted attention and unwarranted advice. Mindful of her vulnerability, Janie manages to keep potential suitors at bay for six months after her husband's death.

Although Janie seems to be able to do things on her own, she does get help running the store from Hezekiah Potts, the 17-year-old delivery boy who worked for Starks. Hezekiah imitates Starks by doing things like smoking cigars and using Joe's familiar expressions. After six months, Janie starts dressing in white, which indicates that her period of mourning is finished. When potential suitors come around, they treat her respectfully; however, Janie refuses to let any of the men get closer to her than coming by the store. Sometimes Janie and Pheoby go fishing, but most of the time Janie simply enjoys her newfound freedom.


Chapter 9 shows how Janie begins to change after her husband's death. After being married for 20 years, Janie finally has a chance to get to know herself and interact with her community as her own person. As the chapter unfolds, it gives readers a glimpse of what it is like for the widow to gain a sense of self-realization and to do as she wishes for the first time since marrying Starks.

Similarly, this chapter explores two of the novel's important themes: gender identity and independence. For example, Janie begins to explore who she is as a woman. She is now free to wear her hair as she likes and to talk with Eatonville's townspeople. She relishes these experiences. Even so, Janie still bears emotional scars from years of enduring Starks's verbal abuse. The narrator points out that even though Janie knows she owns the store, she expects Starks to "come in and find something wrong" with something she did. Slowly, Janie's confidence in her abilities grows as she becomes accustomed to being on her own.

Chapter 9 deepens the theme of independence. At her husband's funeral, Janie begins to experience what it is like to be on her own as she goes "rollicking with the springtime across the world." She enjoys being on her own—"This freedom feeling was fine."—and is clearly in no hurry to marry again despite the expectation that she will find another husband given the social and cultural norms of the time. In fact Janie confesses to Pheoby that she "jus' loves dis freedom." Who can blame her? Her marriage to Starks was stifling and oppressive, and this is the main reason why Janie rebuffs any potential marriage partners. She has enough money to live on from the store and the rent she collects from her tenants, so she is financially secure.

Janie's ritualistic burning of her head rags shows that she is now able to be who she wants to be. That she wears a long braid represents that she is her own person and able to express her individuality.

Documents for Chapter 9

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Questions for Chapter 9

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Through close reading of chapter 9 and 13 of The Catcher in the Rye write an essay in which you show how Salinger uses narrative point of view, imagery, and motif of phoniness to explore the way in wh
Through close reading of Chapter 9 and 3 of the Catcher in the rye, write an essay in which you show how Salinger uses narrative point of view, imagery and the motif of phoniness to explore the way In
Review Chapter 9 in A Christian Philosophical Journey carefully as you work on Worldview Question #5 below. Use this chapter to help you with your answers (and any further synthesis). Read Worldview Q
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