Hurston's novel opens with a lyrical meditation on seeing. Men see "ships at a distance" carrying their dreams; when they do not achieve their dreams, they become broken or bitter. For women, the dream becomes a truth that can guide them, as we see with Janie.
A second instance of this motif occurs when Janie discovers that she is black, when (as Alphabet) she searches for herself in the photograph her white playmates have. This moment of recognition creates something like the double consciousness that W.E.B. du Bois speaks of and initiates Janie's and the reader's awareness that the self needs to be integrated in a way in which the inner self and one's outer recognition of self align.
Janie chafes in her first two marriages because of the gap between what she desires and feels about herself and what others see in her. Mrs. Turner further irritates Janie, as she idolizes Janie's physical attributes.
As she grows more independent with Tea Cake, Janie begins to connect the inner and outer selves. In the hurricane, from which the title comes, Janie and Tea Cake confront the storm while "their eyes were watching God." The disastrous aftermath of the storm and Tea Cake's rabies bring Janie home, where she is the object again of others' scornful sight yet also her most triumphant self—pulling her horizon about herself and anticipating a future of self-realization.