Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 18 Quotes
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She [Janie] crept on hands and knees to the piece of roofing and caught hold of it by either side. Immediately the wind lifted both of them and she saw herself sailing off the fill to the right, out and out over the lashing water. She screamed terribly and released the roofing which sailed away as she plunged downward into the water.
"Tea Cake! He heard her and sprang up. Janie was trying to swim but fighting water too hard. He saw a cow swimming slowly towards the fill in an oblique line. A massive built dog was sitting on her shoulders and shivering and growling. The cow was approaching Janie. A few strokes would bring her there.
"Make it tuh de cow and grab hold of her tail! Don’t use yo’ feet. Jus’ yo’ hands is enough. Dat’s right, come on!"
Janie achieved the tail of the cow and lifted her head up along the cow’s rump, as far as she could above water. The cow sunk a little with the added load and thrashed a moment in terror. Thought she was being pulled down by a gator. The dog stood up and growled like a lion, stiff-standing hackles, stiff muscles, teeth uncovered as he lashed up his fury for the charge. Tea Cake split the water like an otter, opening his knife as he dived. The dog raced down the backbone of the cow to the attack and Janie screamed and slipped far back on the tail of the cow, just out of reach of the dog’s angry jaws. He wanted to plunge in after her but dreaded the water, somehow. Tea Cake rose out of the water at the cow’s rump and seized the dog by the neck. But he was a powerful dog and Tea Cake was over-tired. So he didn’t kill the dog with one stroke a he had intended. But the dog couldn’t free himself either. They fought and somehow he managed to bite Tea Cake high up on his cheek-bone once. Then Tea Cake finished him and sent him to the bottom to stay there. (18.93-96)
Tea Cake’s fatal bite by the rabid dog is caused almost directly by his love for Janie. It is their intense, self-sacrificing love that first causes Janie to go for the piece of roofing and later causes Tea Cake to fight the dog. Thus it is their selfless love for each other that destines Tea Cake to death and Janie to a widowed life.
It was next day by the sun and the clock when they reached Palm Beach. It was years later by their bodies. Winters and winters of hardship and suffering. The wheel kept turning round and round. Hope, hopelessness and despair. (18.98)
The endlessly turning wheel of fate brings "hope, hopelessness and despair" in its respective rounds; Tea Cake and Janie are just unlucky to experience the "despair" phase of it when death visits mankind in devastating enormity.
It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to rollin his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big houses further around the shore heard the big lake and wondered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves secure, the cabins needn’t worry. Their decision was already made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds and wait on the mercy on Lord. The bossman might have the thing stopped before morning anyway. (18.27)
Although Lake Okechobee is obviously swelling with water and ready to flood, the black migrant workers stay down in the swamps, clinging to the confidence of the white people, that they will be safe no matter what nature throws their way. The black "folk let the [white] people do the thinking." Notice how the colloquial and lower-classed are called "folk" and call the white richer men as "people" – a more serious term than the quaint "folk." Even based on terminology, the lower class people are granted less humanity than their higher class neighbors.