wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last
time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their
eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He
meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be
staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.
This quotation from Chapter 18 neatly
summarizes the central conflict of the novel, as Janie, Tea Cake,
and Motor Boat seek refuge from the raging hurricane outside. The
struggle at the heart of the novel is set forth in the starkest
terms: humans against God, Janie and the others against nature.
It is significant that Motor Boat joins Janie and Tea Cake in their
house and that the narrator notes that everybody is united in the
same struggle. We see here that the bonds of human interaction and
intimacy provide refuge against the forces of nature. Tea Cake and
Janie share an intimacy that allows them to struggle and survive
these forces. The sense of self that Janie gains from the love that
she shares with Tea Cake enables her subsequently to endure another
hostile force—the mean-spirited scorn of the black women of Eatonville—and
maintain her inner peace.