Their Eyes Were Watching God
Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
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 understandably links whiteness of skin to higher ranks in society than the black people occupy. But she mistakes the whites’ higher social status for moral superiority. To her, white means good while black signals bad. Therefore, based on her logic she approves of everyone who has white blood in them because it means they are inherently superior and belong to a higher class than normal black people.
[Mrs. Turner to Janie]: "Yo’ husband musta had plenty money when y’all got married."(16.8)
Mrs. Turner assumes that Janie holds similar disdain for black people and admiration for whites, so she assumes that the only way a black man like Tea Cake could win Janie’s hand in marriage is if he had money. Mrs. Turner probably thinks of marriage as a vehicle for increased social status, either by marrying for money or marrying someone with fair skin.
[Mrs. Turner]: "You’se different from me. Ah can’t stand black niggers. Ah don’t blame de white folks from hatin’ ‘em ‘cause Ah can’t stand ‘em mahself. ‘Nother thing, Ah hates tuh see folks lak me and you mixed up wid ‘em. Us oughta class off."
[Mrs. Turner]: "Look at me! Ah ain’t got no flat nose and liver lips. Ah’m uh featured woman. Ah got white folks’ features in mah face. Still and all Ah got tuh be lumped in wid all de rest. It ain’t fair. Even if dey don’t take us in wid de whites, dey oughta make us uh class tuh ourselves." (16.14-20)
Mrs. Turner thinks that because she and Janie have white blood in them, they inherently belong to a higher class than black people and thus they should "class off." This new class would be of a lower status than the fully white people and higher than the fully black people. Essentially, Mrs. Turner wants every inch up the social ladder she can get. What does she really expect to get from becoming a member of a higher class?