Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Mrs. Turner is Janie and Tea Cake's awkward looking and often disrespectful neighbor in the muck, who attempts to befriend Janie and alienates Tea Cake. Mrs. Turner repeatedly suggests that Janie go out with her brother, who she says is much better than Tea Cake because of his intelligence and lighter skin. Despite her own identity as a black woman, Mrs. Turner exhibits extremely racist attitudes against people of her own race, highlighting the often paradoxical and inexplicable nature of racism.

Mrs. Turner Quotes in Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Their Eyes Were Watching God quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Turner or refer to Mrs. Turner. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Their Eyes Were Watching God published in 2006.
Chapter 16 Quotes

"Tain't de poorness, it's de color and de features. Who want any lil ole black baby layin' up in de baby buggy lookin' lak uh fly in buttermilk? Who wants to be mixed up wid uh rusty black man, and uh black woman goin' down de street in all dem loud colors, and whoopin' and hollerin' and laughin' over nothin'?"

Related Characters: Mrs. Turner (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Janie befriends the elderly Mrs. Turner, who reveals a deep-seated hatred for her "black kinfolks." She berates Janie for her marriage to a dark-skinned man and asserts that "black ones is holdin' us [herself and Janie] back."

This is a poignant scene, one of the first instances in which Janie is explicitly praised for her "Caucasian" good looks. Mrs. Turner makes no attempt to disguise her own prejudice, her unequivocal preference for lighter-skinned people (itself a result of internalized white racism, and an entire social system that praises whiteness over blackness). She even compares a black child to a "fly in buttermilk," implying that blackness is undesirable, unsanitary, and unnecessary.

And yet Mrs. Turner's description of "uh rusty black man" and woman "whoopin' and hollerin' and laughin'" cannot stir up any disgust in Janie because this ease and good humor and playfulness are exactly the things she loves about the Everglades. What Mrs. Turner finds repulsive and embarrassing, Janie finds warm and inviting. Hurston shows us that Mrs. Turner's hatred is a hatred for life itself, in all its "loud colors" and laughter.

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It was inevitable that she should accept any inconsistency and cruelty from her deity as all good worshippers do from theirs. All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshipped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.

Related Characters: Mrs. Turner
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

Tea Cake asks Janie to shun Mrs. Turner, and yet the old woman is dogged and determined to spend time with someone she considers her superior. In this passage, Hurston's description of Mrs. Turner's relationship with Janie morphs into a more abstract discussion of divinity and worship.

Mrs. Turner can "forgive" Janie's deliberate snubs because she has put Janie on a sort of altar, giving her license to "dispense suffering without reason." Janie has become a god, even if a cruel one, in Mrs. Turner's eyes. But despite this interpretation of Hurston's analogy, this passage remains curious and unexpected, as the (usually discreet) omniscient narrator takes centerstage. The digression demands the reader's attention.

We might say that Hurston's novel is about power, race, sexuality, love, or bravery. But would we say that the book is also about "indiscriminate suffering?" Do all of the characters fit into the narrator's model, making sacrifices for a God who deals in "inconsistency and cruelty?"

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Mrs. Turner Character Timeline in Their Eyes Were Watching God

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Turner appears in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...muck and wait until next year. At this time, Janie becomes friends with her neighbor Mrs. Turner , a black woman with a notably awkward posture and gait. During one of her... (full context)
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...inside to Tea Cake, she realizes that Tea Cake has heard her entire conversation with Mrs. Turner . Tea Cake expresses his hatred for Mrs. Turner, angered by her presumptuous invitation that... (full context)
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
After telling Janie that talking to Mr. Turner won't change Mrs. Turner 's behavior toward her, Tea Cake instructs Janie simply to act coldly toward Mrs. Turner... (full context)
Chapter 17
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...harvest season picks up, the muck becomes repopulated with both new and old faces, including Mrs. Turner 's infamous brother. Instantly jealous, Tea Cake preemptively whips Janie in order to make sure... (full context)
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...(including Tea Cake, Dick Sterrett, Coodemay, Stew Beef, Sop-de-Bottom, Bootyny and Motor Boat) gather at Mrs. Turner 's restaurant to celebrate. Chaos breaks out when the drunk Dick Sterrett and Coodemay begin... (full context)
Chapter 19
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...to drink water, and is overwhelmed by paranoia, accusing Janie of cheating on him with Mrs. Turner 's brother when she goes to check whether or not his medicine has arrived. Janie... (full context)
Chapter 20
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...were wrong to abuse her as they did. As such, they turn their aggression to Mrs. Turner 's brother and run him out of town. The men beg Janie to stay in... (full context)