Their Eyes Were Watching God
Notable Scenes & Passages:
Harper Perennial, 2006. 219 pages. Paperback edition.
25: “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”
55: “That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen other men wallowing in as she went about things in the store.” Joe’s jealousy is revealed as the chief motivation for his controlling behavior toward Janie. He commands her to keep a modest appearance, so other men will not flirt with her.
71-72: Janie begins to put up a resistance to Joe’s ownership of her and the submission he demands from her--instances of physical abuse are mentioned.
74-75: Other men in the town discuss how to control women by means of physical discipline--it demonstrates a wider culture of toxic masculinity and the sanction of physical harm as a weapon against female resistance.
76: “The years took all the fight out of Janie’s face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul. No matter what Jody did, she said nothing.”
79: “Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible.”
147: “When Mrs. Turner’s brother came and she brought him over to be introduced, Tea Cake had a brainstorm. Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession.”
147: “The way he petted and pampered her as if those two or three face slaps had nearly killed her made the women see visions and the helpless way she hung on him made men dream dreams.” The patriarchal fantasy of female submission is both tantalizing to women and exciting for men--there’s a rush associated with dominating a woman through violence--and women also find it alluring or sexy in a startling way.
Where are moments in the text that you see violence against women sanctioned or idealized by either male or female characters?
In the black rural communities depicted in the novel, what are the views or beliefs regarding marriage? How is male domination accepted as an essential feature of romantic relationships in the text?
How would you characterize Janie? Is she as fiercely independent and defiant as the novel may propose? Is she a heroine or merely another woman trapped in a treacherous patriarchal system?
How would you characterize each of Janie’s three husbands? Which one do you like/dislike most? Why?
What kinds of psychological manipulation are used by men to control women? Are women guilted into submission at certain points?