Their Eyes Were Watching God


Key Quotes

1. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

This line sets up the theme of the novel, which is that love exists in truth, even if it only seems like it exists in a dream. The dream is real; metaphorically speaking it is carried on ships way far off in the horizon. Sometimes one gets near enough to certify the reality of the dream.

2. “She was seeking confirmation of the voice and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers. A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an answer seeking her, but where?”

This quote comes from chapter 2 of the novel. It is just before Nanny has her serious talk with Janie. Janie is aware of a voice inside of her, the voice of God communicating with her soul. The voice draws Janie to itself, which is a voice of love. There is also in her the dawning of maturity. Her body is changing and Janie likens herself to a tree in bloom. The mystery of this change is what she wonders at. She feels an answer to her wonder coming from somewhere. This is a moment of foreshadowing: the answer will come many years later with the arrival of Tea Cake.

3. “The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe’s positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him. They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down.”

These lines come at the end of chapter 5 and illustrate the nature of Joe Starks. Like a tyrant he manipulates the community into doing his bidding and sets himself up over them, who are too timid to challenge his authority. Janie falls in line behind Joe just as the people of Eatonville do. She is submissive to him for the entirety of their marriage—until the end, when her sudden challenge against his manhood sends him into a downward spiral that ends with his death.

4. “They wrestled on until they were doped with their...

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Essays About Their Eyes Were Watching God