Their Eyes Were Watching God Suggested Essay Topics
by Zora Neale Hurston

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Suggested Essay Topics

Chapter 1
1. How does Pheoby’s moral code differ from the moral code of the town? Which code is truly “moral?"

2. Do you agree with the first two paragraphs of this chapter? Explain why you agree or disagree with the narrator.

Chapter 2
1. Write a paragraph from Nanny’s point of view, explaining and justifying her arrangement between Janie and Logan Killicks.

2. The pear tree is one element of nature in this chapter. What other symbols of nature can you find?

Chapter 3
1. Describe how Janie comes to the conclusion that “marriage did not make love.”

2. Do you think that Nanny was satisfied with Janie’s marriage at the time of her death? Use examples from the book to support your position.

Chapter 4
1. Write about an important decision that you made in your life and describe how you felt when you made that decision.

2. Could Logan have kept Janie from leaving him if he had truly told her how he felt? Use examples from the chapter to support your decision.

Chapter 5
1. Is Joe Starks an admirable man? Why or why not?

2. “He’s de wind and we’se de grass. We bend which ever way he blows but at dat us needs him. De town wouldn’t be nothin’ if it wasn’t for him.” Sam Watson says that this is the relationship between Joe Starks and the town. Do you agree with Sam Watson? Why or why not?

Chapter 6
1. Could all of the fighting between Joe and Janie have been avoided? Do you think that Janie could ever be happy with Joe as her husband?

2. How would you interpret the scene of the buzzards?

Chapter 7
1. Describe the argument between Joe and Janie as if you were a customer in the store who witnessed the entire scene. Try to use the point of view of a person from Eatonville, not your own.

2. Why didn’t Janie walk away? (This is not as easy a question as it seems. Try to understand Janie’s position.)

Chapter 8
1. Is it too late to feel sorry for Joe? Why or why not?

2. Read Joe and Janie’s final conversation once again. Examine Joe’s words and comment on his mentality. Why is he so unforgiving to her?

Chapter 9
1. What do you feel is more valued in our society, personal relationships or material wealth? Are the values in our society any different from those in Eatonville?

2. How does the tradition of mourning affect Janie’s life? Comment on the town’s expectations of her.

Chapter 10
1. Do you think this is “love at first sight”? Should Janie be cautious after two failed relationships? Write a paragraph as if you were Janie’s friend and she asks you for advice concerning Tea Cake.

2. How does Hurston use humor in this chapter? Contrast this humor with the “dozens” in previous chapters.

Chapter 11
1. Why does Hezekiah find it necessary to interfere on Janie’s behalf? Discuss his behavior and look to previous chapters to explain his motivation.

2. Is Tea Cake being deliberately mysterious? Discuss his nature and his theatrics.

Chapter 12
1. How does the town’s opinion of Joe Starks change once Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship is made public? Compare examples in this chapter with those in previous chapters.

2. Janie says that if Tea Cake loves property, “he ain’t no different from all de rest of us.” Do you find this statement to be cynical or common sense? Would Janie have thought this way if she didn’t marry Joe? Use examples from the novel to support your position.

Chapter 13
1. Is Annie Tyler’s story a cautionary tale? Do you think that we should feel sorry for her?

2. How does Janie react to Tea Cake’s confessed “commonness”? Compare Tea Cake’s description of himself with Joe Starks.

Chapter 14
1. Describe the hierarchy of this society. How are the most...

(The entire section is 957 words.)