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Rock Street, San Francisco

1: Portrayal of Phoeby vs. others

Phoeby was talking to Janie about those gossipers in town, she referred to Judgement
Day. Phoebe was sarcastic as she commented on the gossipers’ unappeasable curiosity
that they couldn’t wait to Judgement Day to hear more scandalous stories and
secrets. She used Judgement Day as a negative connotation, saying it’s the day
“dat every secret is s’posed to be made known. They wants to be there and hear
it all”. Based on the title “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, the story was
thought to be very religious so that Judgement Day should be a very sacred
event, but we can tell Phoebe had a different perspective. The conflict should
be resolved as the story develops.

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2: The pear tree & what it represents

pear tree was where Janie witnessed a bee pollinating a pear blossom. To the
16-year-old girl, the pear tree represented her ideal of love – sacred and
pure. Janie pictured marriage to be romantic and beautiful as the pear tree and
the bee, so she refused and resented to marry an ugly old man. When Nany
offered her this old man, her “vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the
pear tree but Janie didn’t know how to tell Nanny that.” It rattled Janie’s
idealized vision of love.

3: How Janie is initiated into womanhood

the unsuccessful marriage and Nany’s death, Janie concluded that marriage would
not bring her love. She became a woman when felt dream of true love and
marriage was dead. “The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung
over the gate and looked up the road towards way off.” Without hope for love, hhe
became more distant, and blended into the beauty of nature.  The book ends the chapter with “Janie’s first
dream was dead, so she became a woman.” Experience death made her mature. We
don’t know what it means for Janie to be woman yet, hopefully the author will
provide clues of her change in the next chapters.

4: What makes Joe appealing to Janie

makes Joe appealing to Janie was not his look, but rather his idea of gender
roles. Janie’s husband Logan was a very traditional rural farmer/worker, he
genuinely believed that men should be dominant in the family since they are the
source of income. His deep-rooted idea of gender roles was absolutely not
attractive to Janie. W        hen Joe came
to town, saying to Janie “You behind a plow! You ain’t got no mo’ business wid
uh plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday! You ain’t   got no business cuttin’ up no seed p’taters
neither. A pretty doll-baby lak you is made to sit on de front porch and rock
and fan yo’self and eat p’taters dat other folks plant just special for you”,
Janie was moved. Joe had a different conception of a women’s proper role in the
society. He was more ambitious and caring. Janie believed she would find her
true love in the town Joe talked about.

5: The character of Joe

the way to the town, Joe treated Janie very well; he was loving. Janie
commented on Joe being “kind of portly like rich white folks”, fearless and
ambitious. However, Joe’s attitude changed by the time they settled in the town
and started their business. It turned out that Joe was a smart, but greedy
businessman that also didn’t believe woman have the same capacities as men.
When Joe was giving the speech as the new mayor, he refused to let Janie speak:
“Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no
speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her
place is in de home.” Not only Janie felt disappointed, the town people
resented him later-on. In addition, He was so self-possessed that he did not
believe in fate; he claimed that “All we can do, if we want any light after de
settin’ or befo’ de risin’, is tuh make some light ourselves”.

6:  Janie’s hair & what it represents

hair is what makes her attractive; in the story, her hair also represented her
freedom as a woman. However, “one night Joe had caught Walter standing behind
and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her
braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it without Janie knowing what
he was doing. Joe was at the back of the store and Walter didn’t see him,” and
was jealous of other man “wallowing” his wife’s hair in the store. He “felt
like rushing forth with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand,” so
he forced Janie to wear the head-rag and took away her “last” freedom. Joe
treated Janie like an object, one of his property. He simply didn’t think of
her as a human being that had opinions. She was there in the store for him to
look at, not those others. From that point of the story, Janie’s hair also
caused the broken marriage between her and Joe, as it symbolizes the power
dynamic between them.

7: Expectations for aging

the year pass, Janie lived with Joe in silent resignation and helped Joe with
his business in town; however, the cracks between their relationship started to
show. One day, Janie suddenly noticed the age difference between her and Joe,
since his health was deteriorating. To divert attention, Joe started to call
Janie an “old hen” to make her sound older and ignore his appearance: “Maybe,
he Joe had seen it his old age long before Janie did, and had been fearing
for her to see. Because he began to talk about her age all the time, as if he
didn’t want her to stay young while he grew old. It was always “You oughta
throw somethin’ over yo’ shoulders befo’ you go outside. You ain’t no young
pullet no mo’. You’se uh old hen now.” Finally, Janie rebelled against Joe’s
increasing viciousness and violence – she insults his sagging body, “When you
pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life.” Joe’s pride of manhood
would not allow him to acknowledge his own weaknesses, so he was outrageous and
fiercely hit Janie in the store. There, marked the end of their marriage.

8: descriptions of Janie’s hair

first action after Joe’s death was to let down her hair from the head-rag; she
recognized that she’s still a beautiful, attractive woman. As the book
suggests, “She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful
hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there.” Her hair is the symbol of
liberation, and Joe had long tried to suppress her sex appeal and hide her
beauty. Joe’s death did not overwhelm her with sin and sorrow, instead, she saw
freedom to live a new life. She regained confidence and hope through the
liberation of her hair – her womanhood.

9: references to freedom

Jody’s death, Janie felt a great sense of relief and freedom. She no long
belonged to any man and no one could force her to do anything. The first
reference to freedom is when she “she burnt up every one of her head rags and
went about the house next morning with her hair in one thick braid swinging
well below her waist” – she enjoys the gossips on the store’s porch. She was
grateful for the newfound freedom and joyous and she did not want to tie down
to another man. Although she was attractive and wealthy, she would not seek a
new marriage; “She had already experienced them through Logan and Joe. She felt
like slapping some of them for sitting around grinning at her like a pack of
chessy cats, trying to make out they looked like love.” She didn’t care what
town people thought of her and kept pretending to be mournful even though she
loved her new independence.

10: What makes Tea Cake appealing to Janie

Cake had a different opinion on women from Janie’s previous husbands – he
believed that women can do the same thing as men. He taught Janie how to play
checker, a game that grant equal status for the players. He told Janie that “Yuh
can’t beat uh woman. Dey jes won’t stand fuh it. But Ah’ll come teach yuh agin.
You gointuh be uh good player too, after while.” Teacake appeals to Janie by
making her laugh with imaginative jokes, and Janie didn’t feel any pressure
during the conversation, unlike she did with Joe. Tea cake was also a handsome young
man with shapely body. Tea cake’s arrival brings her a new idea of love and
hope for attaining her dreams.

11: Reference to love

Jody, Tea Cake does not care about social prescriptions of age differences (he
is over ten years younger than Janie). “Things lak dat age got uh whole lot
tuh do wid convenience, but it ain’t got nothin’ tuh do wid love.” – His
courage to insist real love over social influence made him more appealing to
Janie. Although Janie had concerns about Tea Cake taking advantage of her
wealth, Tea cake gradually won over Janie’s heart – to Janie, “he looked like
the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom—a pear tree blossom
in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his
footsteps.” Janie had already seen him as a bee to the pear blossom, her
destiny of love.

12: Reference to class

status of being Mrs. Mayor made her live in a higher class than the rest of the
town people, so the town disapproved her relationship with this poor young man,
Tea Cake, for his age and class. Tea Cake would take her to low-class
entertainments such as baseball games and people believed that Janie dating Tea
Cake was a step-down. However, Janie insists that “”Jody classed me off.
Ah didn’t. Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain’t draggin’ me off nowhere Ah don’t want
tuh go. Ah always did want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn’t ‘low
me tuh. When Ah wasn’t in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid folded hands
and sit dere. And Ah’d sit dere wid de walls creepin’ up on me and squeezin’
all de life outa me.” Jody forced her to act pretentious and suppressed her
nature, whereas Tea Cake treats her as what she would like to be treated. The
pursuit of freedom inside of Janie had crossed over the barrier of social

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