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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Topic #1

Throughout her life, Janie has to fight what is expected of her by other people. Follow her life in the novel, and comment on how she battles these perceptions.


I. Thesis Statement: The people with whom Janie lived tried to restrict her to an understood, stereotypical role, but Janie was able to free herself from these accepted roles.

II. Nanny
A. Thinks a woman should be safe
B. Encourages Janie to marry for convenience
C. Is satisfied with Janie’s life, though Janie herself is not

III. Logan
A. Cannot understand why Janie won’t act like his last wife
B. Expects Janie to work without question
1. Becomes more demanding when he feels threatened
2. Treats Janie like property
C. Janie leaves him for Joe Starks

IV. Joe Starks
A. Entices Janie with talk of ambition and dreams
B. Expects her to be content with his dreams
C. Feels threatened by her refusal
1. Tries to suppress her
2. Becomes abusive when she retaliates
D. His death liberates her

Topic #2

Compare the settings of the novel in terms of the system of power that is used in each society. How is power used in each society?


I. Thesis Statement: The setting in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is directly related to the hierarchy of power that each location uses.

II. Janie’s pear tree
A. The revelation is natural
B. Nature is connected with beauty
C. Contrast with Logan’s farm
1. Power is based upon usefulness

III. Eatonville
A. Joe Starks is the central figure
1. Achieves this power through accomplishment
2. Earns the respect of the people
B. Exploits his power for personal satisfaction
C. His loss of power equals loss of life

IV. The Everglades
A. No one is superior since everyone is poor
B. Tea Cake and Janie become leaders due to personal charm
C. People who have power become the enemy
1. Mrs. Turner and her brother
2. Janie, briefly, due to Tea Cake’s death

V. The hurricane
A. The ultimate force of nature
B. The true killer of Tea Cake
C. No one is able to utilize its force, since it cannot be exploited
D. Makes everyone equal

Topic #3

Compare and contrast Tea Cake and Joe Starks, and specifically their relationships with Janie and others.


I. Thesis Statement: Tea Cake and Joe Starks are two characters who, throughout the novel, have the opportunity to interact and form relationships with other characters. How they maintain their respective relationships provides insight to their characters.

II. Joe Starks
A. Receives awe and respect
B. Is envied because of his wealth

III. Tea Cake
A. Is good-natured and “common”
B. Makes friends easily
C. Is respected because of his good nature

IV. How they maintain their relationships
A. Joe Starks
1. Bullies the town in order to get their respect
2. Once he becomes old, he sacrifices his pride for phony respect
B. Tea Cake
1. Pays no mind to society or its social rules
2. Uses genuine love to keep friends

V. Janie
A. Joe Starks
1. Prizes the respect of the town over his wife’s love
2. Janie is needed to stroke his ego
3. Janie is placed away from the town as a “special possession” of Joe
B. Tea Cake
1. Janie is the most important person in his heart
2. Doesn’t need or want anyone else

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Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Their Eyes Were Watching God Analysis