Their Eyes Were Watching God
Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. (18.30)
The act of turning one’s eyes heavenward in a prayer to God is an act of faith, or, in this case, suspended faith. The question in their eyes is an expression that hinges on God’s response; it can lean either towards hope or despair. Watching, in this case, is akin to asking or pleading for divine mercy, begging for a reason to have faith.
In a little wind-lull, Tea Cake touched Janie and said, "Ah reckon you wish now you had of stayed in yo’ big house ‘way from such as dis, don’t yuh?"
"Yeah, naw. People don’t die till dey time come nohow, don’t keer where you at. Ah’m wid mah husband in uh storm, dat’s all. (18.32-35)
Janie recognizes that she’s had free will in her life, and is happy with the choices she’s made. However, she also recognizes an element of fate when she essentially sys that people die when it’s their time to die, storm or no storm. It’s like she believes in a predetermined time of death. If this is her time to go, then she’ll die in the storm, if not, she’ll be fine.
The wind came back with triple fury and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. (18.39)
Only when faced with a natural disaster in the magnitude of a hurricane does man feel humbled at his smallness in the face of God. The characters here realize that their free will (their desire to remain in the Everglades despite the hurricane) can’t stand against God’s will (the hurricane).