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.
In this passage from Chapter 16, Hurston carves out an exception to the gender dichotomy that she presents in the opening sentences of the novel. Mrs. Turner’s worship of qualities that she will never possess groups her with the men whose ships “sail forever on the horizon.” What is most peculiar about the passage, though, is the implicit comparison between Mrs. Turner and Janie. The “indiscriminate suffering” and “real blood” that may lead to wisdom could equally well belong to Janie. Janie’s trip to the horizon requires her to suffer at the hands of two husbands, shoot her third, and brave a ferocious hurricane. Yet for Janie, suffering is not an end in and of itself. She endures it so that she may experience the fullness of life and the good that comes with the bad.
Mrs. Turner, however, worships her false gods because they give her a sense of superiority over her peers and because, something of a masochist, she enjoys the pain that these gods dole out. When she is mocked for her views by others, she feels like a victim and a martyr, a feeling she finds pleasurable. The narrator’s stylized description, in the paragraph just below the above quote, of her wish for “an army, terrible with banners and swords,” illustrates the fantastic vengefulness and inflated sense of self-importance that Mrs. Turner’s ostracism gives her. It is this pleasure in pain that motivates her to worship “gods who dispense suffering without reason.”