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

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

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Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis

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Soon after the Sunday picnic, the people of Eatonville learn of Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship. Naturally, they disapprove. Curious, Pheoby goes to see Janie, telling her what people are saying, then asking if Janie is afraid that Tea Cake is only in it for the money. Janie defends Tea Cake, but Pheoby still advises her to take care of herself. It’s too late for that, however. Janie has decided to run off with Tea Cake. She is going to sell the store, take a chance, and live her own way. It’s time.


Hurston uses a simile when she describes Pheoby as picking “her way over to Janie’s house like a hen to a neighbor’s garden.” She later compares Pheoby to a chicken to emphasize the fact that she isn’t a gossip.


Colors. Eatonville’s residents note with some irritation that, thanks to Tea Cake, Janie has started wearing brighter clothes and fussing with her hair. Her blue dresses and pink linens symbolize her natural beauty, her happiness in her relationship, and her freedom from Joe, whose death confined her to black mourning clothes. Her flashy new wardrobe brings her joy at the same time as it infuriates her neighbors.


Class. In chapter 2, Hurston established that the theme of slavery was linked to violence, race, sex, and marriage. Here, Hurston links it to the theme of class, which has, in conjunction with money and power, separated Janie from the other citizens of Eatonville. Her grandmother, Nanny, had taught her that climbing the social ladder was important but failed to think about what to do when one got there. Janie is lonely, which is why she decides to give it all up for Tea Cake.

Gossip. Just like in previous chapters, Eatonville’s gossips see fit to comment on and criticize everything that Janie says and does, and just like in previous chapters, Janie doesn’t care. She does the exact opposite of what the town wants her to do, not because she wants to contradict them but because she wants to follow her own heart.

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Chapter 11: Summary and Analysis


Chapter 13: Summary and Analysis