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 are two themes in Chapter 6-10?

Expert Answers

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

These chapters chart the end of the relationship between Janie and her second husband, resulting in his death, and then the beginning of her relationship with Tea Cake, and the resulting liberation that she finds with him. What is key to note is the way that the theme of female freedom and independence is asserted through the key symbol of Janie's hair. Jody forces her to wear it up as he is threatened by its strong, phallic-like nature when it is worn down. It is only after Jody dies that Janie is able to release her hair and wear it free, even though initially she has to bundle it up again to play the part of a woman in mourning. After this, however, she always wears her hair in the same way, and as a result she is strong and assertive in her character compared to the quiet and submissive Janie that she was in her relatinship with Jody.

Another key theme that is introduced into these chapters comes in Chapter 6, when Sam Watson and Lige Moss, sitting on the steps of Jody's store, debate whether humans learn how to live in the world or whether they are born instinctively knowing how to operate. These two opposites of course relate to the nature/nurture debate:

"Listen, Sam, if it was nature, nobody wouldn’t have tuh look out for babies touchin’ stoves, would they? ’Cause dey just naturally wouldn’t touch it. But dey sho will. So it’s caution."

"Naw it ain’t, it’s nature, cause nature makes caution. It’s de strongest thing dat God ever made, now. Fact is it’s de onliest thing God every made. He made nature and nature made everything else."

One argues that babies have to learn the rules of the world, and therefore nurture is the most important, but the other argues nature is most important because it gives us caution. This is a key theme of the novel, as it raises the issue of how humans learn and develop, and particularly emphasises the importance of this for Janie at this particular point in the novel.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team