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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Characters

Quote #1

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.

Quote #2

[Janie when Joe implies she is old]: "Naw, Ah ain’t no young gal no mo’ but den Ah ain’t no old woman neither. Ah reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah’m uh woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat’s uh whole lot more’n you kin say. You big-bellies round here and put out a lot of brag, but ‘tain’t nothin’ to it but yo’ big voice. Humph! Talkin’ ‘bout me lookin’ old! When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life." (7.22)

Both Joe and Janie try to get under each other’s skin by attacking each other’s sexuality. Joe, by suggesting Janie has become an old hag, implies that she has lost her characteristic beauty. Janie retorts by directly insulting Joe’s manhood and stripping him of his pride in front of his peers.

Quote #3

Why must Joe be so mad with her for making him look small when he did it to her all the time? (8.1)

Janie recognizes and laments an unfair double standard: men always put down women and expect them to take it while the reverse does not hold true; women cannot possibly insult their men without drastic and often public consequences. There is a sexual double meaning here, with "small" meaning both Joe’s reputation and his actual manhood.

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