Study Guide

Mrs. Turner in Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston

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Mrs. Turner

A middle-age woman of mixed (black and white) ethnicity, Mrs. Turner imposes herself upon Janie because of their similar heritage. But, she's not just being sweet, and she doesn't just want to bond over what they have in common.

Here's the thing: Mrs. Turner worships all things white. Forget the traditional color dichotomy of black representing evil and white representing goodness—Mrs. Turner takes this to an aesthetic level, associating everything white with beauty and everything black with ugliness. And this, of course, is super-duper baffling and racist.

Because she's grown up among the white middle class, Mrs. Turner sees the white way of doing things as completely authoritative and correct.  Mrs. Turner’s scale of worth for a person hinges fully on how white they appear to be...and because of this, she worships Janie almost as a goddess.

Mrs. Turner actually takes pride and joy in suffering under white rule—she feels she deserves it as punishment for her blackness.

Mrs. Turner can be read as a twisted response to overblown racism. Instead of condemning white people for suppressing black people, she somehow buys into the racist scheme. Yeah. Mrs. Turner is a fascinating and terrifying character.

Mrs. Turner in Their Eyes Were Watching God Study Group

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