Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 18 Quotes
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Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Sometime that night the winds came back. Everything in the world had a strong rattle, sharp and short like Stew Beef vibrating the drum head near the edge with his fingers. By morning Gabriel was playing the deep tones in the center of the drum. So when Janie looked out of her door she saw the drifting mists gathered in the west – that cloud field of the sky – to arms themselves with thunders and march forth against the world. (18.26)
Everyone realizes the storm is indeed coming when the narrator makes the comparison of the coming storm to "Gabriel [the angel of death]…playing the deep tones" as if prophesying the coming death of the Everglades’ inhabitants. Their doom is approaching and to underscore this concept that the world has turned against them, heaven is united against them, "arm[ed with] thunders." Divine justice is swooping down on those who did not heed warnings to leave the swamp.
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. (18.30)
The act of turning one’s eyes heavenward in a prayer to God is an act of faith, or, in this case, suspended faith. The question in their eyes is an expression that hinges on God’s response; it can lean either towards hope or despair. Watching, in this case, is akin to asking or pleading for divine mercy, begging for a reason to have faith.
In a little wind-lull, Tea Cake touched Janie and said, "Ah reckon you wish now you had of stayed in yo’ big house ‘way from such as dis, don’t yuh?"
"Yeah, naw. People don’t die till dey time come nohow, don’t keer where you at. Ah’m wid mah husband in uh storm, dat’s all. (18.32-35)
Janie recognizes that she’s had free will in her life, and is happy with the choices she’s made. However, she also recognizes an element of fate when she essentially sys that people die when it’s their time to die, storm or no storm. It’s like she believes in a predetermined time of death. If this is her time to go, then she’ll die in the storm, if not, she’ll be fine.