Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
Daisy is walking a drum tune. You can almost hear it by looking at the way she walks. She is black and she knows that white clothes look good on her, so she wears them for dress up. She’s got those big black eyes with plenty shiny white in them that makes them shine like brand new money and she knows what God gave women eyelashes for, too. Her hair is not what you might call straight. It’s negro hair, but it’s got a kind of white flavor. Like the piece of string out of a ham. It’s not ham at all, but it’s been around ham and got the flavor. It was spread down thick and heavy over her shoulders and looked just right under a big white hat. (6.147)
Up until now in the book, the only attractive woman we’ve been introduced to is Janie, and she seems to be depicted as attractive because of her Caucasian features – and especially her hair and fair skin. This kind of makes you wonder about Hurston’s message about beauty. This passage is interesting because Daisy has more classically African American features and is clearly attractive. However, Hurston does comment on Daisy’s hair being reminiscent of Caucasian hair. What does all of this mean about how Hurston views beauty and race?
But Mrs. Turner’s shape and features were entirely approved by Mrs. Turner. Her nose was slightly pointed and she was proud. Her thin lips were an ever delight to her eyes. Even her buttocks in bas-relief were a source of pride. To her way of thinking all these things set her aside from Negroes. That was why she sought out Janie to friend with. Janie’s coffee-and-cream complexion and her luxurious hair made Mrs. Turner forgive her for wearing overalls like the other women who worked in the fields. She didn’t forgive her for marrying a man as dark as Tea Cake, but she felt that she could remedy that…her disfavorite subject was Negroes. (16.5)
Mrs. Turner seems like a perverted version of Janie. Like Janie, she is part white and has Caucasian features. Unlike Janie, Mrs. Turner takes an inordinate amount of pride in her appearance, despite having sharp, unappealing features and a totally flat butt. Every feature that dissimilates her from her black peers becomes a source of pride for her. This is because she buys into idea of racial hierarchy with white people as more valuable than blacks. For Mrs. Turner, race is more important than other classical determinants of social hierarchy, such as wealth (Janie works in the fields and could be assumed to be poor) or physical attractiveness (Mrs. Turner overlooks her own bad figure).
[Mrs. Turner]: "You got mo’ nerve than me. Ah jus’ couldn’t see mahself married to no black man. It’s too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race." (16.10)
Mrs. Turner’s hatred for the black race runs so deep that she refuses to marry a black man and she even goes so far as to say that black people should be eliminated. Though she does not state it so bluntly, such is her implication when she suggests that she and Janie should "lighten up de race" by marrying only white men. Doesn’t this make you think of Nazi Germany?