Illustration of the profile of Janine Crawford and another person facing each other

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Start Free Trial

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, what is the significance of the playing cards? I have chosen the playing cards in chapter 14 as the topic of an analytical essay, but I am still confused on how I can use this artifact to analyse something in this book. I know it brought excitement throughout the book. For example, Tea Cake won some money playing cards which led to one of the loser to attack Tea Cake, and made it possible to repay the two hundred dollars to Janie. Also, everybody in the town gather to see Ed Dockery, Bootyny, and Sop-de-Bottom play cards.  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is an interesting question to consider. I would want to investigate the playing cards as a symbol and consider how they might help us to analyse the rest of the novel. If we think about it, it is clear that playing cards relate to the role of chance in our lives. We are told that, in spite of his great skill, Tea Cake did lose heavily at cards at times, and other times he won. However, as the game between Ed Dockery, Bootyny and Sop-de-Bottom at the end of Chapter Fourteen demonstrates, playing cards involves a massive amount of chance and this is shown by the way in which Ed is so terrified about the result of the final card that is about to be turned over:

Ed flipped the next card and Sop fell and lost. Everbody hollered and laughed. Ed laughed and said, "Git off de muck! You ain't nothin'. Dat's all! Hot boilin' water won't help yuh none." Ed kept on laughing because he had been so scared before.

If we extend this game of cards or chance into the rest of the novel, no matter how skilful you are at playing the game of life, you still can't have complete control over the kind of cards that you draw. In the same way, Janie has something of a mixed hand. She does finally find love and hapiness with Tea Cake, but fate decrees that this will not last, and so Tea Cake dies and Janie has to return home. Perhaps the true significance of the playing cards therefore lies in the way that chance is a force that impacts all of our lives.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team