What kind of God are the eyes of Hurston's characters watching?  What is the nature of that God and their watching? Do any of them question God?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the friends and co-workers of Janie and Tea-Cake huddle together in the storm, they watch the all-powerful God of nature without questioning Him.

In Chapter 18 of Their Eyes Were Watching God, as the hurricane approaches, the Seminole Indians begin to depart the area, but the black workers simply laugh at them, saying that the Indians "could be, must be wrong." They have trusted in what the white folks have told them, believing that the storm will blow over. So they gather together, eat, and entertain one another; later, Muck-Boy joins Tea-Cake in a "show-off game" of craps.

After some time, someone looks out and sees the dark clouds rolling in. Then it becomes as dark as night and loud bursts of thunder and lightning "trampled" over the roof. By this time, the men and women huddle together, staring at the door.

They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny weight against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. (Ch.18)

This is the God of nature, the God that stands outside any of their powers. He is the God of all people, and they do not question Him since they must find their own ways. When Janie finishes her tale, she remarks to her friend Pheoby:

Two things every body's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh they selves." (Ch.20) 

Tea Cake and Janie and the others must struggle against the elements and the other dangers of nature during the Okeechobee Hurricane as they seek higher ground where they can be safe from the flooding waters. Hurston's style of writing, her "mythic realism," appropriately describes the struggles of Janie and Tea Cake as they fight the rabid dog and the violent water. Their mettle tested, they have met God, and they now know the boundlessness of love.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the book "Their Eyes were Watching God" is actually quoted by our female protagonist after Jamie meets her one real love, Tea Cakes. They are together when a hurricane arises. The two are hearing the storm howling around them. She asks Tea Cakes if he is sorry that he is there with her instead of somewhere else where he might be safer. He explains that if it is his time to die he would die. He also lets Jamie know that he would rather have lived in this time with her than not having ever lived like so many others. She raises her eyes to God and in her thank-you for sending him the author also talks about them having their bodies in the storm but their eyes were watching God.

I believe that questioning God's plan was a basic theme with the female protagonist. Men have controlled Janie for most of her life. She married the first time at 16 and then later married another man who was more wealthy. Both men controlled her and she questioned God about her life. However, when Tea Cakes comes along and woos her, she comes to know God's purpose and what it is like to feel real love.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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