Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston
Quotes

The Hurricane

Quotes The Hurricane
“Going to high ground. Saw-grass bloom. Hurricane coming.”

Janie and Tea Cake, her third husband, have gone down to the Everglades to find work in the bean harvest. One day they observe several bands of Seminole Indians moving east. One of the Seminoles warns them that there is a hurricane coming. For the Seminoles, the hurricane is a natural force that is too powerful to withstand, and the only rational response is to flee.

Beans running fine and prices good, so the Indians could be, must be, wrong. You couldn’t have a hurricane when you’re making seven and eight dollars a day picking beans.

Unlike the Seminoles, the workers in the bean fields are in denial about the destructive force that is about to attack them. Their immediate financial advantages from picking beans are more important to them than the impending threat. The workers, including Janie and Tea Cake, set themselves apart from nature, unable or unwilling to recognize their own insignificance in the face of nature’s power. As such, the hurricane symbolizes not only impending danger but the habit some have of turning a blind eye to obvious threats for the sake of profit.

The 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.

Since they did not leave to reach higher ground in time, Janie, Tea Cake, and the other bean field workers must face the full fury of the hurricane. In their hearts, they realize they are now at the mercy of the storm. They are helpless, unless God intervenes. The hurricane has become a symbol of impersonal, uncontrollable chaos against which human efforts are puny.

This sickness to her was worse than the storm.

After they survive the hurricane, Janie and Tea Cake face a new threat. Tea Cake, who was bitten by a mad dog while rescuing Janie during the hurricane, has now developed rabies, and the doctor warns Janie that Tea Cake’s death will be painful. The hurricane becomes Janie’s reference point for all life events that are beyond human control. The hurricane symbolizes chaos, evil, and undeserved human suffering.

She wanted him out of the way of storms, so she had a strong vault built in the cemetery at West Palm Beach.

When Janie buries Tea Cake, she attempts to provide for him in death what he did not have in life: security against uncontrollable natural destruction. Janie’s gesture is both poignant and futile. The sentence reminds us that only death releases us from being at the mercy of nature. The storms represent everything about life that is precarious and remind the reader that human life is precious.