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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

Themes

Main ideas Themes

Humanity vs. Nature

Their Eyes Were Watching God illustrates how no human pursuits—for love, money, or self-worth—can stand against God or the forces of nature. For much of the novel, characters operate under the assumption that they control their own destiny: Jody plays God after his appointment as mayor; Tea Cake refuses to believe the impending storm is reason to abandon a full day’s wages; Janie marries hastily in pursuit of fulfilling her girlhood dream of a perfect union. The hurricane that devastates Janie and Tea Cake—eventually causing Tea Cake’s death—is a force of pure destruction, controlled and restrained by no man, and certainly not by Janie or Tea Cake.

The title of the book, taken from when the characters huddle against the hurricane and hope to survive, serves as another reminder of this theme: humanity against the supernatural. As Janie and Tea Cake sit in metaphorical company with the people in surrounding shanties, they are all united in their supplication toward God. Through this shared petition to the divine, the novel suggests that a sort of horrific communion occurs when humanity is pitted against threatening forces of destruction. Specifically, Janie and Tea Cake draw closer in this communion, surviving the hurricane to “stand on the edge of things,” hand-in-hand.