Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston- Quote Collection

“She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing in delight. So this was marriage!”

(Hurston, 11)

“Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn’t for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat’s one of de hold-backs of slavery. But nothing can’t stop you from wishin’. You can’t beat nobody down so low till you can rob ’em of they will. Ah didn’t want to be used for a work-ox and a brood-sow and Ah didn’t want mah daughter used dat way neither.”

(Hurston, 16)

“…But then she kept on astin me how come mah baby look white. She asted me dat maybe twenty-five or thirty times, lak she got tuh sayin’ dat and couldn’t help herself. So Ah told her, ‘Ah don’t know nothin’ but what Ah’m told tuh do, ’cause Ah ain’t nothin’ but uh nigger and uh slave.’
“Instead of pacifyin’ her lak Ah thought, look lak she got madder.””

(Hurston, 17)

“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”

(Hurston, 24)

“She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman” (Hurston, 25).

“After that she came to where Joe Starks was waiting for her with a hired rig. He was very solemn and helped her to the seat beside him. With him on it, it sat like some high, ruling chair. From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them.”

(Hurston, 32)

“That irritated Hicks and he didn’t know why. He was the average mortal. It troubled him to get used to get used to the world one way and then suddenly have it turn different. He wasn’t ready to think of colored people in post offices yet. He laughed boisterously.”

(Hurston, 39)

“The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe’s positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him. They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down.”

(Hurston, 50)

“Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it was never the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. In a way she turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further. She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. she found that she had a host of thoughts she had never expressed to him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about. Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he could never find them. She was saving up feelings for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them.”

(Hurston, 72)

“Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil. It was like a wall of stone and steel. The funeral was going on outside. All things concerning death and burial were said and done. Finish. End. Nevermore. Darkness. Deep hole. Dissolution. Eternity. Weeping and wailing outside. Inside the expensive black folds were resurrection and life. She did not reach outside for anything, nor did the things of death reach inside to disturb her calm. She sent her face to Joe’s funeral, and herself went rollicking with the springtime across the world. After a while the people finished their celebration and Janie went on home.”

(Hurston, 88)

“Most of the day she was at the store, but at night she was there in the big house and sometimes it creaked and cried all night under the weight of lonesomeness. Then she’d lie awake in bed asking lonesomeness some questions.”

(Hurston, 89)

“Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon- for no matter now far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you- and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her. She hated the old woman who had twisted her so in the name of love. Most humans didn’t love one another know how, and this mislove so strong that even common blood couldn’t overcome it all the time. She bad found a jewel down inside herself and she had wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around. But she had been set in the market-place to sell. Been set for still-bait. When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie tried go show her shine.”

(Hurston, 89-90)

“So she sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its amber fluid was drenching the earth, and quenching the thirst of the day.”

(Hurston, 99)

“”Tea Cake, you sure you want me tuh go tuh dis picnic wid yuh?”
“Me scrambles ’round tuh git de money tuh take yuh- been workin’ lak uh dawg for two whole weeks- and she come astin’ me if Ah want her tuh go! Puttin’ mahself tuh uh whole heap up trouble tuh git dis car so you kin go over tuh Winter Park or Orlandah tuh buy de things you might need and dis woman set dere and ast me if Ah want her tuh go!”
“Don’t git mad, Tea Cake, Ah just didn’t want you doin’ nothin’ outa politeness. If dere’s somebody else you’d ruther take, it’s all right wid me.”
“Naw, it ain’t all right wid you. If it was you wouldn’t be sayin’ dat. Have de nerve tuh say whut you mean.”
“Well, all right, Tea Cake, Ah wants tuh go wid you real bad, but,- oh, Tea Cake, don’t make no flase pretense wid me!”
“Janie, Ah hope God may kill me, if Ah’m lyin’. Nobody else on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby. You got de keys to de kingdom.””

(Hurston, 108-9)

“”‘Cause Tea Cake ain’t no Jody Starks, and if he tried tuh be, it would be uh complete flommuck. But de moment Ah marries ‘im everybody is gointuh be makin’ comparisons. So us is goin’ off somewhere and start all over in Tea Cake’s way. Dis ain’t no business proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love game. Ah done lived Grandma’s way, now Ah means tuh live mine.””

(Hurston, 114)

“People ugly from ignorance and broken from being poor.”

(Hurston, 131)

“Janie tried that, but short of telling Mrs. Turner bluntly, there was nothing she could do to discourage her completely. She felt honored by Janie’s acquaintance and she quickly forgave and forgot snubs in order to keep it. Anyone who looked more white folkish than herself was better than she was in her criteria, therefore it was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was cruel to those more negroid than herself in direct ratio to their negroness. Like the pecking-order in a chicken yard…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.
Mrs. Turner, like all other believers had built an altar to the unattainable- Caucasian characteristics for all… The physical impossibilities in no way injured faith. That was the mystery and mysteries are the chores of gods.”

(Hurston, 144-5)

“Janie is wherever Ah wants tuh be. Dat’s de kind uh wife she is and Ah love her for it. Ah wouldn’t be knockin’ her around. Ah didn’t wants whup her last night, but ol’ Mis’ Turner done sent for her brother tuh come tuh bait Janie in and take her away from me. Ah didn’t whup Janie ’cause she done nothin’. Ah beat her tuh show dem Turners who is boss. Ah set in de kitchen one day and heard dat woman tell mah wife Ah’m too black fuh her. She don’t she how Janie can stand me.””

(Hurston, 148)

“Six eyes were questioning God… The wind came back with triple fury, and out 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.”

(Hurston, 159-60)

“They passed a dead man in a sitting position on a hummock,  entirely surrounded by wild animals and snakes. Common danger made common friends. Nothing sought a conquest over the other.”

(Hurston, 164)

“And then again Him-with-the-square-toes had gone back to his house. He stood once more and again in his high flat house without sides to it and without a roof with his soulless sword standing upright in his hand. His pale white horse had galloped over waters, and thundered over land. The time of dying was over. It was time to bury the dead.”

(Hurston, 168)

“”…And then too, Janie, de white folks down dere know us. It’s bad bein’ strange niggers wid white folks. Everybody is aginst yuh.”
“Dat sho is de truth. De ones de white man know is nice colored folks. De ones he don’t know is bad niggers.” Janie said this and laughed and Tea Cake laughed with her.”

(Hurston, 172)

“Well, she thought, that big old dawg with the hatred in his eyes had killed her after all. She wished she had slipped off that cow-tail and drowned then and there and been done. But to kill her through Tea Cake was too much to bear. Tea Cake, the son of Evening Sun, had to die for loving her. She looked hard at the sky for a long time. Somewhere up there beyond blue ether’s bosom sat He. Was He noticing what was going on around here? He must be because He knew everything. Did He mean to do this thing to Tea Cake and her? It wasn’t anything she could fight. She could only ache and wait. Maybe it was some big tease and when He saw it had gone far enough He’d give her a sign. She looked hard for something up there to move for a sign. A star in the daytime, maybe, or the sun to shout, or even a mutter of thunder. Her arms went up in a desperate supplication for a minute. It wasn’t exactly pleading, it was asking questions. The sky stayed hard looking and quiet so she went inside the house. God would do less than He had in His heart.”

(Hurston, 178)

“No knowledge of fear nor rifles nor anything else was there… The fiend in him must kill and Janie was the only thing living he saw.
The pistol and the rifle rang out almost together. The pistol just enough after the rifle to seems its echo. Tea Cake crumpled as his bullet buried itself in the joist over Janie’s head. Janie saw the look on his face and leaped forward as he crashed forward in her arms. She was trying to hover him as he closed his teeth in the flesh of her forearm. They came down heavily like that. Janie struggled to a sitting position and pried the dead Tea Cake’s teeth from her arm.
It was the meanest moment of eternity. A minute before she was just a scared human being fighting  for its life. Now she was her sacrificing self with Tea Cake’s head in her lap. She had wanted him to live so much and he was dead. No hour is ever eternity, but it had its right to weep.”

(Hurston, 184)

“The sun was almost down and Janie had seen the sun rise on her troubled love and then she had shot Tea Cake and had been in jail and had been tired for her life and now she was free.”

(Hurston, 188)

“”Aw you know dem white mens wuzn’t gointuh do nothin’ tuh no woman dat look lak her.”
“She didn’t kill no white man, did she? Well, long as she don’t shoot no white man she kin kill jus’ as many niggers as she please.”
“Yeah, de nigger women kin kill up all de mens dey wants tuh, but you bet’ not kill one uh dem. De white folks will sho hang yuh if yuh do.”
“Well, you know whut day say ‘uh white man and uh nigger woman is de freest thing on earth.’ Dey do as dey please.””

(Hurston, 189)

“”Now, dat’s how everything wuz, Phoeby, jus’ lak Ah told yuh. So Ah’m back home again and Ah’m satisfied tuh be heah. Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah in mah house and live by comparisons. Dis house ain’t so absent of things lak it used tuh be befo’ Tea Cake came along. It’s full of thoughts, ‘specially dat bedroom… love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”

(Hurston, 191)

“”…It’s uh known fact, Phoeby, you got uh go there tuh know there. Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got uh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.””

(Hurston, 192)

“She closed in and sat down. Combing road-dust out of her hair. Thinking.
The day of the gun, and the bloody body, and the courthouse came and commenced to sing a sobbing sigh out of every corner in the room; out of each and every chair and thing. Commenced to sing, commenced to sob and sigh, singing and sobbing. The Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top of the pine trees. Tea Cake, with the sun for a shawl. Of course he wasn’t dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”

(Hurston, 192-193)

Work Cited

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Virago Press, 2018.

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