Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Their Eyes Were Watching God, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Their Eyes Were Watching God explores traditional gender roles as one of its main themes – specifically the way that stereotypical ideas about relationships between men and women empower men and disempower women. The novel's plot is driven by Janie's series of relationships with different men: a kiss with Johnny Taylor, followed by marriages with Logan Killicks, Jody Starks and finally, Tea Cake. Logan Killicks and Jody Starks see Janie as…

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Janie is both the protagonist and narrator of her story, recounting her life experiences to her friend Pheoby after arriving back to Eatonville at the end point of her journey. Janie's experiences within her marriages, a central subject of her story, are what drive her to recognize that what she most actively seeks is a voice for herself—to be someone who can speak and be listened to. The distinctive personalities of Jody and Tea Cake

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Their Eyes Were Watching God focuses its plot both on Janie's series of romantic relationships as well as on Janie's individual quest for self-fulfillment and spiritual nourishment. In the novel, Janie's marriages are what most concretely impede upon her individual quest, but in doing so they actually force Janie to become aware of what it is that she wants for herself as an individual. In the cases of Jody and Tea Cake, Janie…

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Different characters in the novel struggle to find a way to cope and thrive as individuals within communities and within the natural world. Janie searches for individual fulfillment by attempting to find her own voice and independence; Jody seeks total control (through acting as Eatonville's mayor or by forcing Janie to wear her hair in a headscarf out of irrational jealousy); Tea Cake desires a fun-loving approach to life, bordering on the pathological (stealing Janie's…

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Despite its references to race, racism is not the central theme of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Instead, Hurston weaves race and racism into the society and culture in which Janie lives, but chooses to focus more on Janie's life experiences as a human being than as a black woman. In some ways, by not exclusively or predominantly focusing on race, the novel can portray race and racism in the American South in…

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