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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Characters

Quote #4

[Janie]: "But Ah ain’t goin’ outa here and Ah ain’t gointuh hush. Naw, you gointuh listen tuh me one time befo’ you die. Have yo’ way all yo’ life, trample and mash down and then die ruther than tuh let yo’self heah ‘bout it. Listen, Jody, you ain’t de Jody ah run off down de road wid. You’se whut’s left after he died. Ah run off tuh keep house wid you in uh wonderful way. But you wasn’t satisfied wid me de way Ah was. Naw! Mah own mind had tuh be squeezed and crowded out tuh make room for yours in me. " (8.39)

Janie makes plain to Joe one way that men try to keep women down – by silencing their voices (often by speaking louder than their women or ignoring their pleas). Because a person’s words are a direct product of their mind, Janie recognizes that Joe’s attempts to silence her are an intrusion on her very thoughts.

Quote #5

[Janie to Tea Cake]: "If it wuz me, Ah’d wait on uh train. Seben miles is uh kinda long walk."

"It would be for you, ‘cause you ain’t used to it. But Ah’m seen women walk further’n dat. You could too, if yuh had it tuh do." (10.44-45)

Janie seems to some extent to see herself as Joe intended – weak and incapable as a woman. Tea Cake sets to work undoing some of the damage Joe has done, assuring Janie that she is stronger than she thinks. To reinforce the idea, he tells her of other women he has seen walk seven full miles.

Quote #6

[Janie after Tea Cake has stolen her money and disappeared]: Way late in the morning the thought of Annie Tyler and Who Flung came to pay her a visit. Annie Tyler who at fifty-two had been left a widow with a good home and insurance money.

Mrs. Tyler with her dyed hair, newly straightened and her uncomfortable new false teeth, her leathery skin, blotchy with powder and giggle. Her love affairs, affairs with boys in their late teens or early twenties for all of whom she spent her money on suits of clothes, shoes, watches and things like that and how they all left her as soon as their wants were satisfied. Then when her ready cash was gone, had come Who Flung to denounce his predecessor as a scoundrel and took up around the house himself. It was he who persuaded her to sell her house and come to Tampa with him. The town had seen her limp off. The under-sized high-heel slippers were punishing her tired feet that looked like bunions all over. Her body squeezed and crowded into a tight corset that shoved her middle up under her chin. But she had gone off laughing and sure. As sure as Janie had been.

Then two weeks later the porter and conductor of the north bound local had helped her off the train at Maitland. Hair all gray and black and bluish and reddish in streaks. All the capers that cheap dye could cut was showing in her hair. Those slippers bent and griped just like her work-worn feet. The corset gone and the shaking old woman hanging all over herself. Everything that you could see was hanging. Her chin hung from her ears and rippled down her neck like drapes. Her hanging bosom and stomach and buttocks and legs that draped down over her ankles. She groaned but never giggled.

She was broken and her pride was gone, so she told those who asked what had happened. Who Flung had taken her to a shabby room in a shabby house in a shabby street and promised to marry her next day. They stayed in the room two whole days then she woke up to find Who Flung and her money gone. She got up to stir around and see if she could find him, and found herself too worn out to do much. All she found out was that she was too old a vessel for new wine…. (13.10-14)

This passage is particularly illustrative of the popular idea that women are all artifice and no substance. Annie Tyler uses her money to make herself look pretty in her old, decrepit age. But events work to reveal her true state, one in which "everything…was hanging," a state which decidedly lacks any pride or dignity. However, this passage condemns the shameless deception of young men, manipulating older women just to get their money and a night of pleasure. This passage shows the faults of both genders.

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