Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 2 Quotes
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Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
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)
Janie’s pseudo-sexual experience under the pear tree changes her attitude towards boys. It makes her aware of her own body and her own budding sexual desires. This leads her to romanticize a boy whom she once ignored. Nanny, on the other hand, has a much more cynical vision of males. She considers men, especially unmarried ones, dangerous – as demonstrated by her use of "lacerating" to describe Johnny’s kiss for Janie.
[Nanny]: "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 ud de world so fur as Ah can see." (2.44)
Black women, as far as Nanny can see, get the worst lot in life. While white men are highest in the hierarchy and look down on black men, the black men in turn drop the burden on the shoulders of their women. Everyone treats black women like animals.
The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree but Janie didn’t know how to tell Nanny that. She merely hunched over and pouted at the floor. (2.39)
Janie’s ideal of love is set by her experience under the pear tree, an experience that was highly romanticized and glamorized in her sixteen-year-old eyes. Thus the idea of marrying an ugly old man for no other reason than to please Nanny is repugnant to Janie and "desecrates" her idealized vision of love.