Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 14 Quotes
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Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Janie stayed home and boiled big pots of blackeyed peas and rice. Sometimes baked big pans of navy beans with plenty of sugar and hunks of bacon laying on top. That was something Tea Cake loved so no matter if Janie had fixed beans two or three times during the week, they had baked beans again on Sunday. She always had some kind of dessert too, as Tea Cake said it give a man something to taper off on. Sometimes she’d straighten out the two-room house and take the rifle and have fried rabbit for supper when Tea Cake got home. She didn’t leave him itching and scratching in his work clothes, either. The kettle of hot water was already waiting when he got in. (14.19)
Janie’s devotion to Tea Cake is all-consuming. She sets about showing her love in the only way she knows how – by making the home as welcoming as possible. She caters the dinner menu to his taste, cooking his favorite dishes and making sure to always have a hot bath drawn for him when he comes home.
To Janie’s strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new. Big Lake Okeechobee, big beans, big cane, big weeds, big everything. Weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state were eight and often ten feet tall down there. Ground so rich that everything went wild. Volunteer cane just taking the place. Dirt roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized a Kansas wheat field. Wild cane on either side of the road hiding the rest of the world. People wild too. (14.1)
What an aristocrat might label as uncivilized wilderness, Janie describes as "big," "wild," and "so rich." She has a decidedly positive attitude towards a place that could be perceived much more negatively by someone high-born. Again, this shows that adventure and pleasure is more important to her than having a luxurious life.
Day by day now, the hordes of workers poured in. Some came limping in with their shoes and sore feet from walking. It’s hard trying to follow your shoe instead of your shoe following you. They came in wagons from way up in Georgia and they came in truck loads from east, west, north and south. Permanent transients with no attachments and tired looking men with their families and dogs in flivvers. All night, all day, hurrying in to pick beans. Skillets, beds, patched up spare inner tubes all hanging and dangling from the ancient cars on the outside and hopeful humanity, herded and hovered on the inside, chugging on to the muck. People ugly from ignorance and broken from being poor.
All night now the jooks clanged and clamored. Pianos living three lifetimes in one. Blues made and used right on the spot. Dancing, fighting, singing, crying, laughing, winning and losing love every hour. Work all day for money, fight all night for love. The rich black earth clinging to bodies and biting the skin like ants. (14.15-16)
Hurston gives a rich description of the migrant workers pouring into work during the harvest season. These are the lowest of the lower classes, so poor that some walk all the way to the Everglades to do their jobs. Such a wretched group of people would be expected to be miserable, but instead, they are vibrant with life – playing in the jook houses and pianos for fun at night, their music and dancing ringing in the night as they live it up. Hurston clearly seems to be saying that the rich have stale lives, but the poor really know how to live. Is Hurston romanticizing the life of the lower classes or is it accurate?