Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Mortality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[while fleeing from the hurricane]: They passed a dead man in a sitting position on a hummock, entirely surrounded by wild animals and snakes. Common danger made common friends. Nothing sought a conquest over the other. (18.89)
Death is the great equalizer. Fear of death renders all living creatures immobilized and passive, quelling their desire to strike out – even in fear – and making their ultimate goal one and the same – to survive the storm. Thus, no creature lashes out against another.
The dog stood up and growled like a lion, stiff-standing hackles, stiff muscles, teeth uncovered as he lashed up his fury for the charge. Tea Cake split the water like an otter, opening his knife as he dived. The dog raced down the backbone of the cow to the attack and Janie screamed and slipped far back on the tail of the cow, just out of reach of the dog’s angry jaws. He wanted to plunge in after her but dreaded the water, somehow. Tea Cake rose out of the water at the cow’s rump and seized the dog by the neck. But he was a powerful dog and Tea Cake was over-tired. So he didn’t kill the dog with one stroke a he had intended. But the dog couldn’t free himself either. They fought and somehow he managed to bite Tea Cake high up on his cheek-bone once. Then Tea Cake finished him and sent him to the bottom to stay there. (18.96)
This death scene is a mirror to Tea Cake’s own. Tea Cake, like the rabid dog will battle madness and mindless aggression, a fear of water, and a prolonged struggle with death. The image of the feral dog entangled with Tea Cake, one struggling to kill the other, is a symbolic representation of Tea Cake struggling with overwhelming illness as death looms.
And then again Him-with-the-square-toes [Death] had gone back to his house. He stood once more and again in his high flat house without sides to it and without a roof with his soulless sword standing upright in his hand. His pale white horse had galloped over waters and thundered over land. (19.1)
The allusion to the pale white horse is a Biblical allusion to the Pale Horseman of the Apocalypse – the rider who represents Death, bringing it through war, famine, and plague. The fact that Death’s sword is "soulless" is appropriate for he also represents Hell, a place of eternal torment for those who abused their souls in their lifetimes.