Chapter 16: Summary and Analysis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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...

(The entire section contains 343 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your subscription to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Start your Subscription

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.

Allusions

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.

Motifs

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.

Simile

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

Themes

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.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Their Eyes Were Watching God Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Chapter 15: Summary and Analysis

Next

Chapter 17: Summary and Analysis