Their Eyes Were Watching God
Chapters 7-14
Questions for journal writing, in-class discussion, or small group analysis


Chapter 7

1. How do the events of this chapter mark a turning point in Janie’s character development? Draw on the vivid language describing Janie at the beginning of the chapter and details from the main scene to show her transformation.

2. How does Janie’s identification with the natural world fortify her in this chapter? How does her ability to center on images of herself in nature help her stand up to Joe? Draw on specific language from the chapter.

3. What types of images do you draw on for strength when you are feeling under pressure by other people or circumstances?


Chapter 8

1. How is death portrayed in this chapter? What do you think the portrayal shows you about how Janie experiences Joe’s death?

2. Why is it important that Janie lets her hair down right after Joe dies and before she tells the townsfolk gathered that he has died? What do you think happens for Janie in that moment?


Chapter 9

1. The second paragraph of the chapter, beginning with the sentence, “Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil” describes Janie’s emotional reaction to the funeral. What is the veil representing in this description? What is ambiguous about the way it is used?

2. In literature, an epiphany is what happens when a character has a sometimes-sudden revelation of an underlying truth about a person or a situation. When Janie reflects on what was important to Nanny and Joe, and thinks about what is important to her, what epiphany occurs for her?

3. Think about the times in your life when something about the world or people you knew has become suddenly crystal clear for you. Write about the situation, and how you responded to the epiphany you had.


Chapter 10

1. There are several ways in which Tea Cake and Joe Starks are contrasted (shown as different) in this chapter. Which differences between them are most striking to you?

2. How is the moment when Tea Cake asks Janie, “You got a lil piece uh fire over there, lady?” an allusion to their future together? How does his language remind you of the sparks talked about in Chapter 9?


Chapter 11

1. How does Tea Cake’s response to Janie’s hair in this chapter illustrate how different he is from the other men he has known?

2. How does Tea Cake’s connection with nature in this chapter show how compatible he is with Janie? How does what he gathers from nature portray another type of “possession” that a man might provide for a woman?

3. What is the importance of food in this chapter? What does the way in which Tea Cake provides food have to do with the idea of nurturing?

4. Fear, doubt, sincerity and sacrifice all arise as aspects of love in this chapter. What is an illustration of each aspect and what is important about each one? Which aspect is the most important to love between two people, in your opinion?


Chapter 12

1. This chapter shows how Janie recognizes the difference between her grandmother’s ideas of love and her own. What are the ways that Janie has committed to her own vision of love? Show at least two examples.

2. In the first paragraph of the chapter, the narrator lays out all the ways that the town takes stock of Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake, listing the kinds of things they do together. Why is the statement, “All those signs of possession” a curious, ambiguous and/or ironic one to make in this context? Who possesses whom? Who believes that the events of courtship listed are signs of possession?


Chapter 13

1. How do Janie and Tea Cake both start out in this chapter by hiding important parts of themselves (important feelings) from each other?

2. Why does the story of Annie Tyler take place in this chapter? What do you think happens to people when they seek an unnatural transformation?

Chapter 14

1. Hurston vividly depicts the extreme destitution and poverty of the blacks who come to work on the Muck in this chapter. Although these workers have so little materially, they are able to celebrate life, connect with each other, and prosper by relying on their internal resources. What does this experience of black culture show Janie?

2. Tea Cake is a leader in this community as Joe Starks was in his. Discuss the differences in the ways that they lead. Which of the two of them would you respond to if you found yourself in their communities? How do the characters in the book respond to their different methods of leadership

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