Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 2 Quotes
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After a while she got up from where she was and went over the little garden field entire. She was seeking confirmation of the voice and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers. A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an answer seeking her, but where? When? How? She found herself at the kitchen door and stumbled inside. In the air of the room were flies tumbling and singing, marrying and giving in marriage. When she reached the narrow hallway she was reminded that her grandmother was home with a sick headache. She was lying across the bed asleep so Janie tipped on out of the front door. Oh to be a pear tree – any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her? Nothing on the place nor in her grandma’s house answered her. She searched as much of the world as she could form the top of the front steps and then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up and down the rod. Looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made. (2.15)
Janie’s initiation into the sexual world via her experience under the pear tree makes her yearn for her own sexual realization, her own true love. She compares herself to the pear tree, having "glory leaves and bursting buds" and seeking her own "singing bees." For Janie, on the brink of womanhood, she expects love and sexuality to come hand-in-hand. Which unfortunately isn’t what happens.
Through pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up the road. In her former blindness she had known him as shiftless Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes.
In the last stages of Nanny’s sleep, she dreamed of voices. Voices far-off but persistent, and gradually coming nearer. Janie’s voice. Janie talking in whispery snatches with a male voice she couldn’t quite place. That brought her wide awake. She bolted upright and peered out of the window and saw Johnny Taylor lacerating her Janie with a kiss. (2.16-17)
The experience which the naïve Janie attempts to make her first expression of love, Nanny abhors and turns it into something to be ashamed of. She sees her Janie acting rashly out of teenage lust and fears for her safety among equally lusty and less scrupulous men. Thus, she interprets Johnny Taylor’s kiss as a laceration – something meant to hurt and humiliate Janie. To Nanny, sexuality is a dangerous thing.
"Yeah, Janie, youse got yo’ womanhood on yuh. So Ah mout ez well tell yuh whut Ah been savin’ up for uh spell. Ah wants to see you married right away."
"Me, married? Naw, Nanny, no ma’am! Whut Ah know ‘bout uh husband?"
"Whut Ah seen just now is plenty for me, honey, Ah don’t want no trashy nigger, no breath-and-britches, lak Johnny Taylor usin’ yo’ body to wipe his foots on."
Nanny’s words made Janie’s kiss across the gatepost seem like a manure pile after a rain. (2.25-28)
For Nanny, a girl becomes a woman at the first sign of her emerging sexuality. She sees any sort of extramarital sexual activity – even kissing – shameful and thus makes "Janie’s [first] kiss…seem like a manure pile after a rain."