Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 9: Summary and Analysis

Zora Neale Hurston

Chapter 9: Summary and Analysis

Joe's death is an ostentatious affair, with Cadillacs, Buicks, and Lincolns bringing mourners from all over Orange County. Janie projects an outward image of grief, but inside she goes "rollicking in the springtime" and looks forward to her freedom. She keeps managing the store, though, and at night, alone in that same house, she grows lonesome, thinking of all the deaths in her life. She thinks of Nanny in particular, growing angry and bitter all over again because Nanny forced her to marry Logan Killicks and in so doing crushed the happiness out of her. In her quiet moments, Janie thinks of how God made Man out of beautiful material and how the angels got jealous and cut Man into a million ugly pieces. She finds that beautiful material in herself and wants to show it off.

Just a month after Joe's death, men start coming around Janie's house, asking her if she needs an "advisor" to help her manage Joe's wealth, which she has inherited. Amused, Janie rebuffs them all, until one day Ike Green comes up to her and says that she has to be careful who she marries next. Having never considered this, Janie becomes indignant, but later realizes that there's some truth in this, and that she mustn't open up to just anyone. Instead, she should enjoy her freedom.

Metaphor

Hurston uses a complicated metaphor when she says that Nanny pinched the horizon into a small thin string that she tied around Janie's neck, metaphorically choking her in the name of love. The horizon in this context is Janie's dream of the future and her longing for love, which Nanny tries to kill when she marries Janie off to Logan Killicks.

Simile

Hurston uses a simile when she says that Janie's face is "like a wall of stone and steel."

Themes

Marriage. In the wake of Joe's death it becomes clear, once again, that marriage means money and power to most men in this community. They're only interested in Janie because she's rich now, and though Janie willingly goes on dates with these men, she feels no real connection with them. If marriage is a form of slavery, then the absence of marriage is an obvious sign of independence. That Janie initially refuses to consider the idea of remarriage further emphasizes how bad and disappointing her first two marriages were.

Money. Almost as soon as Joe dies, Janie goes from being a widow to a rich, independent woman whose money—rather than her beauty—attracts men to her like flies. Janie's transition from being Joe's wife to a prominent business owner gives her the freedom to spend freely, to run the store as she sees fit, and to sell the business if she wants. If she were at all politically inclined, her newfound wealth would likely afford her a leadership position in the community. When men ask her if she needs someone to advise her, it's clear that they're interested in both her money and social status.

Mourning. Traditionally, when someone loses their spouse, there's a mourning period afterward in which it's considered gauche or inappropriate to date and consider remarriage. This mourning period can be long or short, depending on the community, and general involves withdrawing from society for a while in order to mourn the deceased. Janie, who never loved Joe but still succumbs to loneliness after he dies, says that "mourning oughtn't tuh last no longer'n grief." The grief she experiences is less about Jody's death and more about the death of Janie's own youthful passion. She's mourning for herself, not for Joe.