Their Eyes Were Watching God

by: Zora Neale Hurston

Gender Inequality

1

“So de white man throw down de load and tell the nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks.

Nanny Crawford, Janie’s grandmother, laments the state of the world. As a black woman, Janie’s life is destined to be difficult. Nanny hoped life would be easier for Janie than it was for herself, but Nanny accepts that Janie’s life can only be somewhat better at best. Nanny’s desire to make sure Janie is safe and as comfortable as possible, within the constraints of society, leads her to insist that Janie marry Logan Killicks, a responsible man who can provide Janie with a home and property.

2

“He’s kissin yo’ foot and ‘tain’t in uh man tuh kiss foot long. Mouf kissin’ is on uh equal and dat’s natural but when dey got to bow down to love, dey soon straightens up.”

Nanny understands that Janie’s relationship with her new husband Logan will change soon enough. She explains that Logan’s affectionate behavior is his way of trying to win Janie over but adds that he is unlikely to keep trying for much longer. Nanny believes that a man’s pride will only allow this self-humbling to go on for a short time at most. Nanny’s prediction proves correct. Logan gradually expects Janie to contribute more to the work around their house and property and resents her continuing coolness towards him and the respectable status he gives her.

3

“Somebody got to think for women and chillum and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves.”

Jody Starks frequently asserts his belief in male superiority in general—and his own in particular—throughout his marriage to Janie, most pithily in this comment. Just prior to this statement, Janie noted that Jody loves to tell her what to do but that she can’t tell him “nuthin’.” Jody is quite sure there is no reason he should ever listen to her or any other woman. Jody’s constant slights to Janie’s intellect eventually lead her to stop outwardly asserting herself while inwardly continuing to have her own, different, thoughts.