Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Janie]: "Well, is he – he – is he got uh wife or something lak dat?"…
[Hezekiah]: "No’m. And nobody wouldn’t marry Tea Cake tuh starve tuh death lessen it’s somebody jes lak him – ain’t used to nothin’. ‘Course he always keep hisself in changin’ clothes. Dat long-legged Tea Cake ain’t got doodly squat. He ain’t got no business makin’ hissef familiar wid nobody lak you." (11.30-31)
Hezekiah thinks Tea Cake shouldn’t be spending time with Janie, not because Tea Cake is a bad person or a criminal, but simply because he’s poor. To Hezekiah, social status is more important than a person’s character.
[Pheoby]: "Course she kin do as she please, but dat’s uh good chance she got up at Sanford. De man’s wife died and he got u lovely place tuh take her to – already furnished. Better’n her house Joe left her." (12.5)
Pheoby obviously values material wealth and stability, marks of the higher class. Because the Sanford undertaker’s house is "better’n her house Joe left her," Pheoby thinks the decision is a no-brainer: marry the undertaker. But Janie has different values than Pheoby and the other Eatonville citizens; she’s experience material wealth and knows that it’s not what drives her.
[Janie]: "Jody classed me off. Ah didn’t. Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain’t draggin’ me off nowhere Ah don’t want tuh go. Ah always did want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn’t ‘low me tuh. When Ah wasn’t in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid folded hands and sit dere. And Ah’d sit dere wid de walls creepin’ up on me and squeezin’ all de life outa me. Pheoby, dese educated women got uh heap of things to sit down and consider. Somebody done tole ‘em what to set down for. Nobody ain’t told poor me, so sittin’ still worries me. Ah wants tuh utilize mahself all over." (12.16)
Janie was always viewed as a trophy by Joe, one to be polished and placed on a pedestal and never to be touched by others’ grubby hands. His treatment of her left Janie isolated and bored. While Janie doesn’t directly criticize people of the upper classes, she hated being idle herself and wants to be of some use, implying that high class idleness is essentially a waste. Since none of those educated ladies probably know what they’re sitting around for either, the upper-class women must not be utilizing themselves in any productive way.