Illustration of the profile of Janine Crawford and another person facing each other

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Start Free Trial

What is the main conflict in chapter one of Their Eyes Were Watching God?

Quick answer:

The main conflict in chapter one of Their Eyes Were Watching God is between Janie and the people of Eatonville. After she returns to the town where she had previously lived, many of her former neighbors are suspicious and unwelcoming.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Their Eyes Were Watching God is largely told as a prolonged reflection on the events of many years leading up to Janie Crawford’s arrival in Eatonville, which opens chapter one. When Janie was married to Joe Starks, the couple lived in Eatonville until his death; for a while, Joe (also called Jody) had even been the town’s mayor. After he died, Janie had remarried and moved away, and had fallen out of touch with her former neighbors and co-residents.

The conflict in chapter one is primarily between Janie and many of the residents—both some who formerly knew her and others who have only heard stories about the Starks era. As Janie seems to be well-off, some people resent her apparent success, in part because of its connection with Jody. Those who enjoying inventing and sharing gossip spread the rumor that her husband, Vergible Woods, nicknamed Tea Cake, has left her. They speculate that she has come back because she has nowhere else to go.

Although Janie could dispel these rumors if she chooses, she maintains a distance from most townspeople. In fact, Tea Cake has died, and Janie killed him. She chooses to share the story of her life, not just the last section, with one remaining friend, Pheoby.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial