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 16: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on April 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 343

When the planting season ends, Janie and Tea Cake decide to stay on in the muck. Janie becomes friends with a light-skinned woman named Mrs. Turner, who believes Black people should marry white people in order to “lighten up de race.” Janie doesn’t share Mrs. Turner’s racist values but talks to her all the same. Tea Cake, overhearing what Mrs. Turner says, grows offended and tells Janie to keep her new friend away from their house.


Booker T. Washington (1856–1915). An author and orator who became a pillar of the Black American community in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was opposed to Jim Crow laws and became famous for a speech called the “Atlanta Compromise,” in which he decried the lynchings in the South at that time. Hurston alludes to him in this chapter when Mrs. Turner says that he wasn’t a great man at all. Instead of questioning Washington’s fame, which was well-deserved, Hurston uses this allusion to make Mrs. Turner seem all the more vile to the reader.


Transfiguration. Hurston repeatedly uses words like “transfiguration,” “transmutation,” and “change” to illustrate character development over time. Janie’s character arc has been marked by periods of upheaval, turning the hopeful youth into the bitter woman who finds love at an unexpected time in her life. In this chapter, it’s not Janie who undergoes the transfiguration, but Mrs. Turner, who feels as if her skin is lighter by association when she’s around the light-skinned, beautiful Janie Crawford.


Hurston compares the social stratification between light- and dark-skinned Black Americans to the pecking order in a chicken yard.


Race. Until now, the theme of race has appeared mostly in relation to racism and slavery, particularly at the hands of white people. Here, Hurston refocuses the reader’s attention on racism present in the Black community, where lighter-skinned Black people look down on their dark-skinned counterparts. Mrs. Turner embodies this breed of self-hating racism and helps illuminate Janie’s experience as a rich, light-skinned Black woman.

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Chapter 15: Summary and Analysis


Chapter 17: Summary and Analysis