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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God


by Zora Neale Hurston

Nanny Timeline and Summary

  • When we first meet Nanny in the flashback to Janie’s childhood, we learn that Nanny is raising Janie. Nanny also works in the home of a white family, the Washburns.
  • Nanny sees that Janie is being criticized by other black children for living with a white family and wearing white children’s hand-me-down clothes, so Nanny buys a house and land to raise Janie on.
  • When Janie is 16 and kisses Johnny Taylor, Nanny calls her in for a talking-to. She announces that Janie is now a woman and that she should get married to a suitable man as soon as possible. Nanny’s greatest goal in life is to see Janie safely married.
  • Nanny slaps Janie when Janie criticizes Logan Killicks, the man Nanny wants her granddaughter to marry.
  • Nanny regrets slapping Janie and tells her granddaughter her life story so that Janie can understand why marriage is so important.
  • When Nanny recounts her story, she begins near the end of the Civil War when her master rides away to fight in the war. The mistress of the house takes this chance to look at Nanny’s newborn daughter. The baby has gray eyes and blonde hair, which means that Nanny has been sleeping with the master.
  • The mistress threatens to have Nanny beaten to a pulp, so Nanny runs away with her child, whom she nicknames Leafy.
  • She survives until slavery is abolished and manages to find work with the Washburns.
  • When Leafy is 17, she is raped by a white schoolteacher and gives birth to Janie. Once Janie is born, Leafy disappears forever.
  • Nanny is left to raise Janie, which she does as if she is her own daughter.
  • Nanny’s life story ends.
  • Nanny reassures the romantic Janie that marriage will definitely bring love. So, Janie marries Logan Killicks.
  • When Janie returns to Nanny after three months of marriage, she confides in her grandmother that she still isn’t in love with Logan. Nanny scoffs at her and tells her to be grateful for everything she does have—60 acres of land and a respectable husband.
  • After Janie leaves, Nanny prays and asks God to take care of Janie.
  • Nanny dies a month later.