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)
[The porch gossips]: "What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid? – Thought she was going to marry? – Where he left her? – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs – Why she don’t stay in her class? – " (1.6)
The inhabitants of Eatonville resent Janie for not fitting into an easily-identifiable class. She was known as the venerable wife of the mayor before she ran off with a no-name and no-account man far too young for her. Yet she is beautiful and has her dignity, so the porch gossips jealously point out everything wrong with her – her masculine dress, her hair worn in a manner too youthful for her age, her widowhood, and her apparent poverty.
[Nanny]: "Whut Ah seen just now is plenty for me, honey, Ah don’t want no trashy nigger, no breath-and-britches, lak Johnny Taylor usin’ yo’ body to wipe his foots on." (2.27)
Nanny considers Johnny Taylor far below her and Janie’s station. This is apparent because she uses words like "trashy" and "breath-and-britches," implying that Johnny is poor. She equates his low social status with negative intentions toward Janie – which may or may not be the case. Still, Nanny uses social status as a way of determining a person’s value and integrity.
[Nanny to Janie]: "If you don’t want him [Logan], you sho oughta. Heah you is wid de onliest organ in town, amongst colored folks, in yo’ parlor. Got a house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big road and…Lawd have mussy! Dat’s de very prong all us black women gits hung on. Dis love! Dat’s just whut’s got us uh pullin’ and haulin’ and sweatin’ and doin’ from can’t see in de mornin’ till can’t see at night." (3.21)
Nanny envies the middle-class white life, valuing key material objects that signify wealth like organs (not like kidneys, but the piano-like instrument), houses, and "sixty acres uh land." She wants that kind of wealth for Janie and assumes that social status and worldly goods will automatically bring happiness.