Sam, if it was nature, nobody wouldn’t have tuh look out for babies
touchin’ stoves, would they? ’Cause dey just naturally wouldn’t
touch it. But dey sho will. So it’s caution.” “Naw it ain’t, it’s
nature, cause nature makes caution. It’s de strongest thing dat
God ever made, now. Fact is it’s de onliest thing God every made.
He made nature and nature made everything else.”
This interchange, which occurs in Chapter 6,
is an excerpt from a lively debate between Lige Moss and Sam Watson
on the porch of Jody’s store. In addition to being an excellent
example of Hurston’s use of dialect and idiomatic English, this
dialogue speaks to Janie’s developing understanding of herself in
relation to the world. Here, Sam and Lige argue about the relationship
between mankind and God and between themselves and the world around
them. In modern terms, it is a discussion of nature versus nurture.
Lige argues that humans are taught everything that they know; such
a perspective implies a fundamental antagonism between humanity
and the natural world. In Lige’s terms, there are hot stoves everywhere,
and humans must learn and be vigilant to survive. Sam, on the other hand,
argues that humans are naturally cautious; such a perspective implies
a fundamental harmony between humanity and the natural world. According
to Sam, humans, as creatures made by God, are inherently part of
nature. Over the course of the novel, Janie progresses through the
obstacles that the world presents her until she finally, harmoniously,
reaches the horizon that she has long sought.