Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 2 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Nanny]: "Dat mornin’ on de big plantation close to Savannah, a rider come in a gallop tellin’ ‘bout Sherman takin’ Atlanta. Marse Robert’s son had done been kilt at Chickamauga. So he grabbed his gun and straddled is best horse and went off wid de rest of de gray-headed men and young boys to drive de Yankees back into Tennessee.
"They was all cheerin’ and cryin’ and shoutin’ for de men dat was ridin’ off. Ah couldn’t see nothin’ cause yo’ mama wasn’t but a week old, and Ah was flat uh mah back. But pretty soon he let on he forgot somethin’ and run into mah cabin and made me let down mah hair for de last time. He sorta wropped his hand in it, pulled mah big toe, lak he always done, and was gone after de rest lak lightnin’. (2.58-59)
Although not stated explicitly, it seems that Nanny’s slave master cares more for Nanny than his white wife. It is, afterall, Nanny that the master returns home to caress and say goodbye to before heading off to battle, not his wife. This harkens back to Leafy’s situation as well. Her white schoolmaster raped her, but he also apparently wanted to marry her. Though socially unacceptable at the time, and often displayed in negative ways, love was not confined to members of a person’s own race.
[Nanny]: "Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see." (2.44)
This book reveals a social hierarchy based on race and gender. While the fact that black men were often put down and discriminated against by white men is common knowledge, Nanny points out an even more victimized group – black women. By virtue of being both a racial minority and the "weaker" sex, black women had it worst of all and were essentially the bottom of the totem pole.
"Den they’d tell me not to be takin’ on over mah looks ‘cause they mama told ‘em ‘bout de hound dawgs huntin’ mah papa all night long. ‘Bout Mr. Washburn and de sheriff puttin’ de bloodhounds on de trail tuh ketch mah papa for whut he done tuh mah mama. Dey didn’t tell about how he wuz seen tryin tuh git in touch wid mah mama later on so he could marry her. Naw, dey didn’t talk dat part of it atall. Dey made it sound real bad so as tuh crumple mah feathers." (2.10)
Because Janie’s father is a white rapist and her mother the product of a white slave owner and a black slave woman, Janie’s birth is a result of race victimization. Janie must learn to handle this inheritance and others’ condescension with strength, grace, and dignity.