Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Nanny Quotes
[Nanny]: "Ah was born back in slavery so it wasn’t for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat’s one of de hold-backs of slavery. But nothing can’t stop you from wishin’. You can’t beat nobody down so low till you can rob’ em of they will. Ah didn’t want to be used for a work-ox and a brood-sow and Ah didn’t want mah daughter used dat way neither. It sho wasn’t mah will for things to happen lak they did. Ah even hated de way you was born. But, all de same Ah said thank God, Ah got another chance. Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high, but they wasn’t no pulpit for me. Freedom found me wid a baby daughter in mah arms, so Ah said Ah’d take a broom and a cook-pot and throw up a highway through de wilderness for her. She would expound what Ah felt. But somehow she got lost offa de highway and next thing Ah knowed here you was in de world. So whilst Ah was tenin’ you of nights Ah said Ah’d save de text for you. Ah been waitin’ a long time, Janie, but nothin’ Ah been through ain’t too much if you just take a stand on high ground lak Ah dreamed." (2.56)
Nanny speaks of something deeper than simple pride in the human spirit when she talks about the indomitable will of the black slaves. Nanny’s faculty of "nothing can’t stop you from wishin’" might be described in universal terms as human dignity. She links this concept of dignity with Janie’s upbringing, trying to teach her to stand on "high ground" and "preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high." This is her ultimate goal for Janie, but she does not take into account Janie’s free will.
[Nanny] "Humph! don’t ‘spect all dat tuh keep up. He [Logan] ain’t kissin’ yo’ mouf when he carry on over yuh lak dat. He’s kissin’ yo’ foot and ‘tain’t in uh man tuh kiss foot long. Mouf kissin’ is on uh equal and dat’s natural but when dey got to bow down tuh love, dey soon straightens up." (3.15)
For a man, according to Nanny, love must be dignified. It is a dishonor for a man to "bow down" to a woman, even out of love. To feed their pride, they must love on equal footing (or else force the woman to bend and kneel, which is what Logan and Joe try to do).