Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 7: Summary and Analysis

Zora Neale Hurston

Chapter 7: Summary and Analysis

One day Janie wakes up and realizes that she's thirty-five. Eleven years have passed since the last chapter, and she's grown weary of her life, tired of her time spent working in the store. Whenever she performs a menial task or kowtows to Joe, she imagines herself sitting under a tree with wind in her hair, like she did when she was a girl. She isn't the only one growing old, though. Joe, who was older than her when they married, looks half-dead already, and when he criticizes her for her looking old she tells him that when he pulls down his pants he looks "lak de change uh life." For this, he smacks her; but he still takes her words to heart.

Motifs

Trees. In Chapter 2, Janie was depicted as a young girl sitting under a blossoming pear tree, flowering into a young woman. In this chapter, she can only dream of begin that carefree young girl whose only wish is to find love. This clears her mind and allows her to reclaim some of her old identity, giving her the strength to stand up to Joe.

Themes

Age. Time moves very rapidly in this novel, and Janie goes from being in her mid-twenties to her mid-thirties in the course of a chapter. True to his sexist nature, Joe criticizes Janie for her age and her fading beauty, reinforcing the double standard that women can't be sexual beings after they reach a certain age, even though men can. Of course, Janie's beauty isn't fading, and she will enter into her most romantic and erotic relationship shortly after Joe dies.

Gender. Unsurprisingly given the time period, women are almost constantly discriminated against in this novel and are judged more for their physical characteristics than their personality. Joe makes this abundantly clear when he calls her old and fat, as if her body is the only piece of her that matters. In a satisfying turn, Janie talks back to him, reclaiming some of her power as a woman.