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)
The wind came back with triple fury and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. (18.39)
Only when faced with a natural disaster in the magnitude of a hurricane does man feel humbled at his smallness in the face of God. The characters here realize that their free will (their desire to remain in the Everglades despite the hurricane) can’t stand against God’s will (the hurricane).
"De lake is comin’!" and the pursuing waters growled and shouted ahead, "Yes, Ah’m comin’!", and those who could fled on. (18.60)
Again, the personification of the lake as a live speaking being gives it the semblance of an avenging angel descending to reign its divine fury and justice on a crowd of sinners. The fact that it speaks, answering, "Yes, Ah’m comin’!" to the people’s frightened cries makes it seem particularly vengeful, like a spurned God seeking revenge.
[Motor Boat]: "Ah’m safe here, man. Go ahead if yuh wants to. Ah’m sleepy."
"Whut you gointuh do if de lake reach heah?"
"S’posing it come up dere?"
"Swim, man. Dat’s all." (18.75-79)
Motor Boat has much more faith in a benevolent God than Tea Cake or Janie. In the end, Motor Boat has amazing luck and sleeps through the storm, never once being touched by the water. Tea Cake and Janie, however, suffer deeply. Tea Cake eventually dies of rabies and Janie suffers the loss of her husband. The different outcomes of Motor Boat and Tea Cake/Janie makes it seem like Janie and Tea Cake made the wrong choice by taking their fate into their own hands.