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 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. (18.96)
This death scene is a mirror to Tea Cake’s own. Tea Cake, like the rabid dog will battle madness and mindless aggression, a fear of water, and a prolonged struggle with death. The image of the feral dog entangled with Tea Cake, one struggling to kill the other, is a symbolic representation of Tea Cake struggling with overwhelming illness as death looms.
[Elias]: "Yeah man. You and Janie wanta go? Ah wouldn’t give nobody else uh chawnce at uh seat till Ah found out if you all had anyway tuh go."
"Thank yuh ever so much, Lias. But we ‘bout decided tuh stay."
"De crow gahn up, man."
"Dat ain’t nothin’. You ain’t seen de bossman go up, is yuh? Well all right now. Man, de money’s too good on the muck. It’s liable tuh fair off by tuhmorrer. Ah wouldn’t leave if Ah wuz you." (18.10-13)
Tea Cake’s pride in making money and arrogant disbelief in the migrating Indians sets him up to be humbled by God and the hurricane. Elias’s offer gives Tea Cake an honest chance to show his humility before God, but he shuns it. Thus, Tea Cake is simply asking for some humble pie.
"Dese people had mo’ sense than Ah did," Tea Cake said, as they dropped to the floor and lay there panting. "Us oughta went on wid ‘Lias lak he ast me." (18.62)
Tea Cake, caught in the midst of the fearsome hurricane, finally regrets his decision not to go with Elias when given the chance to flee to safety. God’s divine justice brings his pride low and humbles him.