Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Reading Questions Ch. 1-10

Austin S.                                                                                     4/14/2011
Mrs. Zurkowski                                                                               Purples

Reading Questions for Their Eyes Were Watching God
Chapters 1-2

1.      Interpret the meaning of the “ships” metaphor used in the first two paragraphs of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Does Janie meet the expectations you have for her after reading the introduction?

In the metaphor at the beginning of the book, ships represented the dreams men have.  Some come in to port and are realized. Others always hover on the horizon, never quite coming to fruition. Janie was very well praised in the foreword for her actions and life and built up something for the character to live up to. In the first chapter, she did this and more, even making her somewhat more impressive with great stress also being placed upon her physical beauty.

Quote: “…men noticed her firm buttocks…great rope of black hair…pugnacious breasts…saving with the mind what they lost with the eye.”

2.      How do the townspeople react to Janie’s return to Eatonville?

Reaction to Janie’s return seemed to be dominated by jealousy, suspicions, and accusations both said and unsaid. The only exception was Phoeby.

3.      What is Pheoby Watson’s reaction to Janie’s return?

Pheoby reacts with happiness that her friend is back as well as being curious towards where her friend has been all this time. She also goes to her friend’s aid to protect her from the porch sitter’s gossip.

Quote: “Well, nobody don’t know if it’s anything to tell or not…If she got anything to tell yuh, you’ll hear it.”

4.      Why does Janie tell her life story to Pheoby?

Janie tells Pheoby her life story because she considers Pheoby to be a good friend. Janie knows she can also depend on Pheoby to will listen to her story, retell it truthfully, and offer good thoughts about it.

      5.      Why does Nanny raise Janie?

Nanny raised Janie from an early age because her mother had been raped and then ran away in shame. Nanny tried to raise and protect Janie well enough so that nothing like that would ever happen to Janie.

Quote: “…but I done de best I kin by you. Ah…bought this lil piece uh land so you wouldn’t have to stay in de white folk’s yard…”

6.      Janie does not realize that she is black until age six. Describe Janie’s environment and how she discovers her race.

Janie grew up in a white family’s backyard and played with the family’s white kids all the time. She discovered her race when a passing photographer took a picture of them and she could not find herself. The family then showed her and she found out she was black.

7.      What significance does the pear tree hold for Janie?

The pear tree plays an important romantic role for Janie. She sees it as a living example of love and marriage,

Quote: “Oh to be a pear tree…with kissing bees…so this was a marriage!”

8.      Identify the event that prompts Nanny to arrange Janie’s marriage to Logan Killicks.

Nanny is prompted to arrange Janie a marriage when she sees Janie kissing Johnny Taylor over the fence. Nanny sees this as a problem that could escalate and moves to stop it from doing so.

9.      Why does Nanny react so strongly to seeing Janie kiss Johnny Taylor?

Nanny reacts very strongly to the kiss because she does not want what happened to Janie’s mom to happen to Janie. She cannot be forever guarding her and is afraid of people like Johnny taking advantage of her after she is gone.

Quote: “Ah can’t be always guidin’ yo’ feet from harm and danger.”

10.  Explain Nanny’s views on romantic love.

Nanny views romantic love to be useless and meaningless and does not believe in it. She sees it as more of a way of making women work like mules.

11.  How does Janie feel about marrying Logan Killicks?

Janie hates the very idea of marrying Logan. She does not view him in any romantic way at all. In fact, she despises his looks.

Quote: “He look like some ole skullhead in de grave yard.”

Chapters 3-4

12.  What does Janie assume will happen once she marries Logan? Is she right?

Janie assumes that once she marries Logan, she will automatically grow to love him. Obviously, she is wrong and becomes very sad about her marriage.

13.  Hurston writes “She knew now that marriage did not make love” at the end of Chapter 3. Explain the significance of this revelation to Janie.

This means that before, Janie thought love could be manufactured by marriage and now she realizes it is a separate thing altogether. This shows her that she can still find love and is not destined for eternal misery. She also realizes that she wants more from marriage if it cannot supply love.

Quote: “Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage…”

14.  Describe Logan’s attitude towards Janie. How does it change over time?

At first, Logan acts very nicely towards Janie and is polite and spoiling. Over time, he becomes less so and begins to complain that he has spoiled her too much and wants her to start working with him.

15.  Describe Janie’s first impression of Joe Starks.

Janie sees Joe Starks as more of a perfect person, who is rich, driven, and romantic. He very much appealed to her sense of change and different things.

Quote: “…but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance.”

16.  Why do you think Janie decides to run off with Joe Starks?

Janie decides to run off because it would change her life and she needed that along with love she would not have found with Logan.

Chapters 5-6

17.  Joe and Janie move to a new all-black town. Detail their first impressions of the new town.

The first impression Janie and Joe express after seeing the town for the first time is one of disappointment. They want to see the mayor and are shocked when they discover there has not been one elected yet.

Quote: “God, they call this a town?”

18.      What are Joe’s goals, both stated and implied?

Joe states that he means to get to Eatonville and buy up a lot of land before the town starts to grow. As an implied goal, he badly wants to become the mayor and wield significant power and authority.

19.      Joe takes the new town by storm. List several things he accomplishes.

As soon as Joe gets to Eatonville, he buys 200 acres of land with cash. Then, he sets up a store and asks the government for a post office. He then goes out to other places to try and raise attention for the growing town and convinces several people to move there.

Quote: “Ah’m buyin’ in here, and buyin’ in big.”

20.      Discuss the townspeople’s feelings toward Joe.

The townspeople are in awe of Joe and his air of confident authority keeps them cowed. However, behind his back, they dislike him strongly and seem jealous.

21.      What are the advantages and disadvantages of being Mrs. Starks?

Advantages of being Mrs. Starks are that she is rich, being able to buy the best luxuries available, and that she is respected by the townspeople as a lady. Unfortunately, she is also always busy with running the store, Mr. Starks is not there as often, and when Joe is home, he mistreats her. Janie also cannot have any fun, as it would be undignified.

Quote: “…and Ah feels like Ah’m jus’ markin’ time. Hope it soon gits over.”

     22.      What does Janie like and dislike about the store?
              Janie likes the store when she gets to talk to the townspeople and listen to the general gossip. She dislikes having to run around and complete difficult orders, and she hates the head rags she has to wear.

     23.      Describe Joe’s attitude towards women.
             Joe believes that women cannot think for themselves. He therefore thinks that men have to do the thinking for them.

Quote: “Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves.”

     24.      Discuss the symbolism associated with the head rag Janie wears around the store.

Janie hates the head rag she has to wear and sees it as symbolizing several things that were her particular curses. One was that it symbolized the control Joe had over her and her constricting marriage. Another was the fact that the rags looked much like the old rags slave women used to wear.

     25.      Trace the origins and development of trouble in Janie and Joe’s marriage.

Trouble first appears in their marriage when Janie realizes that Joe is always busy and is not as romantic as he was before. Then it escalates when he makes her work in the store for him and wear the headband. On top of that, Joe proceeds to force Janie to stay out of fun activities because he views them as un-ladylike. It reaches a high point when Joe slaps her for making a bad dinner. This is where Janie learned to keep her inside life and her outside life separate.

Quote: “…Joe didn’t make any speeches with rhymes to her...” – Narrator
“You’se always off talkin’ and fixin’ things, and Ah feels lak Ah’m jus’ markin’ time…”-Janie
“Jody told her to dress up and stand in the store all that evening.”- Narrator
“She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them.”-Narrator

     26.      Why does Joe buy the mule from Matt Bonner?

Joe says that he bought the mule so as to let the poor beast go to rest in peace. What is underlying is the fact that he noticed how uncomfortable Janie was with the way Matt was treating the mule before and I think he wanted to try and save his marriage with a kind deed.

Chapters 7-8

      27.      How does Janie cope with her unhappy life with Joe?

  Janie copes by stuffing all her feelings deep inside herself. Then she creates an inner life with her true thoughts and feelings and an outer life where she was an automaton.  

Quote: “Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he [Joe] could never find them.”

28.      Explain Joe’s motivation for striking Janie.

Joe slaps Janie because she makes a bad dinner. He had been through a long day and was looking forward to his meal as a bit of a respite. And since Janie was usually a very good cook, it really got him angry.
29.      What disturbing revelation does Janie learn from Pheoby? How does the revelation affect Janie?

Pheoby reveals to Janie that Joe has been seeing a doctor and knows he is sick but tries to make Jane believe it is her fault. Janie is very hurt by this.

Quote: “Sorrow dogged by sorrow is in mah heart…He just make out he b’lieve it tuh hurt me.”

30.      Detail the circumstances surrounding Joe’s death.

Right before Joe died, he began bringing over more and more people to the house and getting more and more people under his thumb. He began to take meals from old lady Davis instead of from Janie. His body began to sag everywhere and the doctor told Janie Joe’s kidneys had stopped working and it was too late to do anything. Right before Joe died, Janie spoke up against him and finally said her piece. After he died, many people began to hang out around Janie.

31.      Discuss Janie’s reaction to Joe’s death.

After Joe died, she was at first filled with pity over the way life had mistreated him the way he had mistreated others. Then she admired herself in the mirror, defying the way Joe had been putting her down. Afterwards, Janie put on a stoic face for the people of Eatonville, to try and trick them into thinking she was mourning.

Quote: “She was full of pity for the first time in years…Years ago, she had told her girl self to wait for her in the looking glass…and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then combed her hair and tied it back up again.”

      32.      Contrast Janie’s inward emotions with her outward appearances at Joe’s funeral.

     Janie’s inner feelings at the funeral were not of sorrow or mourning, but were instead of rebirth and new life. She was ready for freedom, but instead she sent a stoic version of her outer self to the funeral to save face. That outward appearance showed only feelings of loss, eternity without, and weeping.

33.      Characterize Janie’s feelings about finding a new mate after Joe’s death.

At first Janie thought that the newcomers were only there for her wealth. Then she thought she didn’t even want a new mate just yet anyway. Janie also liked the new feeling of freedom she had, being able to do as she pleased. She even found it somewhat annoying that men kept advancing upon her even though Joe had just died.

Quote: “Joe ain’t dead two months. Ain’t got settled down in his grave.”

34.      Describe Tea Cake. How do he and Janie meet?

           Tea Cake was a tall man who met Janie in the store when all the rest of the town had gone to see the baseball game. He likes to make Janie laugh and often succeeds in doing so through his crazy antics.

35.      Speculate about Tea Cake’s choice of a time to visit Janie at her store.

Tea Cake chose to visit Janie for the first time when the whole town had gone to the baseball game. That meant he was probably trying to talk to her while she was alone. That seems very sly and cunning on his part.

Quote: “Business was dull all day, because numbers of people had gone to the game…At five thirty a tall man came into the place.”

36.      Why is the fact that Tea Cake asks Janie to play checkers significant to Janie?
         All the other men in the town had ever asked her to play before and she was not sure how to play. When Joe was alive, he never taught her because he didn’t think she would be able to grasp it and was as bold enough as to say it to Janie. Tea Cake inviting her to play lets her know he thinks she would be his equal or better at it, and that he treats her in a fair way with no presumptions.

37.      Janie frequently refers to Tea Cake as “crazy”. Interpret Janie’s meaning.

When Janie calls Tea Cake “crazy” she means it an adorable, exasperated way. He makes her laugh with his ridiculous actions and jokes, acting crazy in love. She adores him for this and hence refers to him as such.

Quote: “ Janie Burst out laughing in spite of herself. “You crazy thing!” ”


  1. Austin,
    Great responses for the first half of the novel. Try to blend your quotes into future reponses though. Otherwise, thanks!
    95/100 A+