Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
[Mrs. Turner]: "You oughta meet mah brother. He’s real smart. Got dead straight hair." (16.22)
Her brother’s "dead straight hair" is a mark of his mixed-blood heritage. To Mrs. Turner, it is a mark of pride simply because it differentiates him from the rest of the common black people. Mrs. Turner also seems to imply that her brother’s intelligence is linked to his whiteness, since she places "he’s real smart" alongside "dead straight hair."
[Tea Cake on Mrs. Turner]: "Ah hates dat woman lak poison. Keep her from round dis house. Her look lak uh white woman! Wid dat meriny skin and hair jus’ as close tuh her head as ninety-nine is tuh uh hundred!" (16.36)
Where Mrs. Turner associates beauty with whiteness, Tea Cake takes the opposite stance. He considers white ugly, especially when it is mixed with black blood. So what are his thoughts on Janie? Mrs. Turner even thinks Janie looks more white than herself.
[Janie]: "…Ah jus’ uh ole woman dat nobody don’t want but you."
"Naw, you ain’t neither. You only sound ole when you tell folks when you wuz born, but wid de eye you’se young enough tuh suit most any man. Dat ain’t no lie. Ah knows plenty mo’ men would take yuh and work hard fuh de privilege. Ah done heard ‘em talk." (19.124-125)
Tea Cake takes Janie’s remark, which did not even explicitly refer to appearance, and turns it into something about her beauty. Tea Cake uses her good looks and youthful appearance to justify his jealousy, which is the last thing that Janie wants. So again, are Janie’s good looks a curse or a blessing?