Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 19 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Miserable, sullen men, black and white under guard had to keep on searching for bodies and digging graves. A huge ditch was dug across the white cemetery and a big ditch was opened across the black graveyard. Plenty quick-lime on hand to throw over the bodies as soon as they were received. They had already been unburied too long. The men were making every effort to get them covered up as quickly as possible. But the guards stopped them. They had received orders to be carried out.
"Hey, dere, y’all! Don’t dump dem bodies in de hole lak dat! Ezamine every last one of ‘em and find out if they’s white or black."
"Us got tuh handle ‘em slow lak dat? God have mussy! In de condition they’s in got tuh examine ‘em? Whut difference do it make ‘bout de color? Dey all needs buryin’ in uh hurry."
"Got orders from headquarters. They makin’ coffins fuh all de white folks. ‘Tain’t nothin’ but cheap pine, but dat’s better’n nothin’. Don’t dump no white folks in de hole jus’ so."
"Whut tuh do ‘bout de colored folks? Got boxes fuh dem too?"
"Nope. They cain’t find enough of ‘em tuh go ‘round. Jus’ sprinkle plenty quick-lime over ‘em and cover ‘em up." (19.24-29)
This is an example of blatant racism. The white dead are good enough to receive coffins while the black dead must be buried without such dignity, simply because of the color of their skin. Even in death, white people continue to disrespect and desecrate the black people.
While Tea Cake was standing and looking he saw two men coming towards him with rifles on their shoulders. Two white men, so he thought about what Janie had gold him and flexed his knees to run. But in a moment he saw that wouldn’t do him any good. They had already seen him and they were too close to miss him if they shot. Maybe they would pass on by. Maybe when they saw he had money they would realize he was not a tramp.
"Hello, there, Jim," the tallest one called out. "We been lookin’ fuh you."
"Mah name ain’t no Jim," Tea Cake said watchfully. "Whut you been lookin’ fuh me fuh? Ah ain’t done nothin’."
"Dat’s whut we want yuh fuh – not doin’ nothin’. Come on less go bury some uh dese heah dead folks. Dey ain’t gittin’ buried fast enough." (19.16-19)
The white guys in this scene clearly think all black men are the same and don’t care to see any differences between them, whether they be their names, wealth, or intentions.
Finally he [Tea Cake] dipped a drink. It was so good and cool! Come to think about it, he hadn’t had a drink since yesterday. That was what he needed to give him an appetite for his beans. He found himself wanting it very much, so he threw back his head as he rushed the glass to his lips. But the demon was there before him, strangling, killing him quickly. It was a great relief to expel the water from his mouth. He sprawled on the bed again and lay there shivering until Janie and the doctor arrived. (19.78)
Tea Cake refers to his disease as a "demon," giving it a supernatural aspect, as if God is hounding Tea Cake to death, punishing him for ignoring all the warnings of the coming hurricane earlier. It seems as if Fate has it in his cards that Tea Cake must die for his transgression.