Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Quotes

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1.

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.


Narrator, Chapter 1

In the novel's opening sentence, the narrator introduces Janie's motivation—to pursue her dreams and to reach them. As the novel unfolds, it is clear that Janie's quest to find out who she is will be difficult and full of obstacles.

2.

She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom.


Narrator, Chapter 2

This sensual image depicts Janie's growing awareness of sexual desire and her desire for love. This sentence introduces the theme of love and the symbolism of the pear tree, which both appear throughout the novel.

3.

Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything.


Nanny, Chapter 2

Based on her experiences as a slave and as a free woman in a segregated society, Nanny believes whites have all the power. She conveys the lessons of the constraints on black women to Janie.

4.

Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman.


Narrator, Chapter 3

Married at 16, Janie begins to learn about love and desire. She realizes getting married to Logan Killicks did not make her fall in love with him. This quotation implies that being disappointed in love is a normal part of becoming a mature woman.

5.

A bee for her bloom.


Narrator, Chapter 4

This quotation expresses Janie's optimism for her second marriage. She believes that Joe Starks will fulfill her emotional and physical needs by recalling the sensual image of the bee and the pear tree blossom from Chapter 2.

6.

Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'.


Joe Starks, Chapter 5

At a street lamp lighting ceremony, Tony Taylor asks Janie to say a few words; however, Joe won't let her speak. This quote reveals how Starks feels about women in general and Janie in particular.

7.

You don't know half as much 'bout us as you think you do.


Janie, Chapter 6

When the porch sitters criticize Mrs. Robbins, Janie defends her and, by extension, all women. This is a rare example of Janie standing up for her beliefs during her life with Joe.

8.

You done lived wid me for twenty years and you don't half know me atall.


Janie, Chapter 8

When Joe Starks is on his deathbed, Janie finally speaks up for herself. She wants to tell him who she is before he dies.

9.

Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon ... and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter's neck tight enough to choke her.


Narrator, Chapter 9

Janie is angry with Nanny for arranging her marriage to Logan Killicks, thus squashing Janie's dreams of love and happiness. While Nanny tries to pass on practical advice to Janie about attaining security, the metaphor comparing the horizon to a noose suggests Nanny's viewpoint killed Janie's spirit and voice.

10.

He could be a bee to a blossom—a pear tree blossom in the spring.


Narrator, Chapter 9

Janie realizes she is falling in love with Tea Cake. This quotation alludes to the symbol of the pear tree in Chapter 2.

11.

You'se something tuh make uh man forgit tuh git old and forgit tuh die.


Tea Cake, Chapter 15

Tea Cake tries to convince Janie he isn't interested in another woman, so he finds an exaggerated way to express his love for her.

12.

Mrs. Turner ... had built an altar to the unattainable—Caucasian characteristics for all.


Narrator, Chapter 16

Mrs. Turner, an African American, favors blacks whose physical and behavioral characteristics are associated with whites. Her prejudice draws her to Janie, who has lighter skin than Mrs. Turner.

13.

Janie is wherever Ah wants tuh be.


Tea Cake, Chapter 17

Tea Cake's boast to Sop-de-Bottom shows he can also be domineering and controlling. He seems to be showing signs of possessiveness like Joe Starks had exhibited.

14.

They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.


Narrator, Chapter 18

This quotation, the source of the novel's title, comes when Janie, Tea Cake, and others are in the midst of the hurricane. It conveys how powerless people feel against the forces of nature. The quotation also points to a central conflict in the novel: the powerlessness of humans versus the power of God.

15.

Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net.


Narrator, Chapter 20

As the novel closes, Janie is content. She has had the chance to live and love. She has achieved her dreams and has found herself in the process. The conclusion of the novel evokes the themes of love and independence.

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