Their Eyes Were Watching God

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One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published -- perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.

Curriculet Details
70 Questions
83 Annotations
2 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum is meant to support reading comprehension and also increase engagement for 10th graders confronting this simply stunning novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Media-rich annotations help readers understand the often obscure slang in the text, as well as its historical and geographical setting. Over the course of the book, readers explore themes like love, gender roles, narrative complexity, and social injustice by answering Common Core aligned questions embedded throughout the text. It's difficult not to be engaged by this text, and these questions and annotations will encourage readers to think deeply about the issues it raises.

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Chapter 1

Throughout the text, keep in mind this issue of how women and men think differently from one another, according to the narrator. 
What sort of language is this? 
Generally, those talking on the porch have a _____ opinion of the woman they are gossiping about. 
Mulatto rice is a rice dish made with tomatoes. Now, it's commonly called red rice, but it was called mulatto rice in the South around the 1930s. This mention of mulatto rice helps to establish the ______ of the story.  
Here's a picture of mulatto rice:  (This annotation contains an image)
This is an old slang term for a black person. 
Based on context clues, what do you think this saying means? 
This is a word that the author invented, which seems to mean big, monstrous, or a combination of the two. 

Chapter 2

This is a provocative simile which you should keep in mind throughout the text as we learn more about Janie's life. 
The bulk of the rest of the book is a flashback, told by Janie to her friend Pheoby. Janie has lived through what she is about to tell.  
To "lick" in this context means to punish physically.  
This entire page is full of beautiful, provocative language. How are the last three paragraphs different from the paragraphs that opened this chapter? 
To lacerate means to tear or to cut, which is an unusual way to describe a kiss. 
This plant is used for a variety of medicinal purposes: (This annotation contains an image)
This novel is bursting with figurative language. This is an example of a _______. 
What does this mean, given the description of the pear tree you read earlier? 
Mules are typically used as beasts of burden, used by people for work. (This annotation contains an image)
A brood-sow is a pig used primarily for giving birth to other pigs.  
Why does Nanny want Janie to marry Logan? Why doesn't Janie want to marry Logan? 
This rider is telling of General Sherman, a union general during the civil war, and his capture of Atlanta. This was seen as an important victory for the North. Here's a drawing of "Atlanta burning": (This annotation contains an image)
This would be the Mistress of the house, the white wife of Master Robert. Reading between the lines in the previous paragraph, it seems like Master Robert uses Nanny for sex. 
Even after the Civil War, crimes against African Americans remained common, especially in the South. 
After hearing this tragic tale about Leafy, Janie's mom, it is ___________. 

Chapter 3

What is Janie implying with this response? 
Organs are quite expensive instruments. 
This book contains a number of descriptions about consciousness and the mind.This is one provocative description of the workings of the mind. What do you think about it? How would you describe the workings of the mind differently? 

Chapter 4

In other words, "going to".  
What does this reveal about Janie? 
Ribbon cane is a type of sugar cane that used to be common in the South. It's syrup is kind of like molasses. Here's a can of it: (This annotation contains an image)
Mentions of horizons appear throughout the text. What does Janie mean here? What does a horizon mean for her? 
Sow-belly would be pork. 
Logan intends to treat Janie like a ____. 

Chapter 5

This would be Georgia. 
Given context clues, Coker thinks Joe is ______. 
To foreshadow is to hint at something in the future. What might this paragraph be foreshadowing? 
This feeling that Hicks has is common in times of great change. It would have been particularly common after the Civil War. 
Due to their gossipy nature, Coker and Hicks are similar to which other characters in the novel? 
These are both kinds of fabric. 
The bell-cow is the cow that wears a bell to mark its status as the herd leader. Like Logan did, Joe seems to be thinking of Janie as an animal. This time, it's a bell-cow instead of a mule.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a reference to a tale from the Bible where Isaac met his wife Rebecca at a well. See Genesis 24 if you're interested: (This annotation contains an image)
Is Joe in love with Janie? Is Janie in love with Joe? Cite the text in support of your answer.  
Barbecue is indeed a beloved tradition in the South.  (This annotation contains an image)
There are many reasons why Janie might feel this way. What is a plausible one, based on evidence from the text? 
The reference is to something that upsets the stomach and can make a person nervous. 
A switch is a flexible rod that slaveowners commonly used to beat their slaves. Oscar's point here is that Joe acts like a slaveholder.  
In your own words, what does this mean?  

Chapter 6

Another mule. Remember how earlier in the novel the mule was used as a symbol for subjugation. 
Given the context clues, what does "gum-grease" mean? 
Janie's hair can be seen as a symbol of her freedom and strength. Joe doesn't want her hair to flow freely; he wants it contained and in his control.  
This is a very small town in Florida 
Why do you think Joe freed the mule? 
How is Joe like Logan? 
The tone of this funeral seems pretty light! 
It is interesting to think about the social order of the birds compared to the order of the people in town. 
It's likely here that Joe is hinting that Janie is _______. 
The question here is whether we know about dangers naturally or have to learn to be cautious of them. 
What do you think about this question about nature and caution? Is it a silly question to you? Why or why not? 
John the Conquerer was a hero from African-American folklore, a slave who always tricked and evaded his masters.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is an interesting pick up line! 
What is the purpose of these repeated mentions of "actors" in this "play"? 
This would mean "study the law". He must have done this in an attempt to woo Mrs. Bogle. 
This is a neat metaphor. Given the context, what do you think it means? 
Pig feet are a traditional snack of the South. 
Think back to the earlier description of the bees buzzing around the pear tree in Spring. Look in this selection at the words "daisy-field" and "petal-open". In their context, what are they suggesting? 
This paragraph is worth a re-read. Superb writing, laden with rich figurative language.  
What is this an example of? 
What might Joe be hinting at here? 

Chapter 7

What does this mean? 
To prostrate oneself to another is a sign of submission. 
Methuselah is a character from the bible famous for his long life (hundreds of years, by some accounts). This would not be a nice thing to call someone.  (This annotation contains an image)
"To play the dozens" is to exchange a series of taunts or insults.  
Why is Janie’s insult particularly offensive to Joe? Cite the text.   
In the Bible, Saul's daughter Michal left her husband David for another man. Even though David brought her back, Michael despised him.  

Chapter 8

This saying about eating with a long-handled spoon is an old one, at least as old as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (around 1400).  You can see it also in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors: "He must have a long spoon that must eat with the devil." With a long-handled spoon, one could taste something without having to get too close to it.In other words, Janie is saying that if she has to be more ______   Joe, then she will. 
This is a cunning use of alliteration, the repetition of sounds in closely connected words. Hurston has a masterful way with words.  
Bones can be used to make broth.  
Remember that this is the same Pheoby that asks for Janie's story in the first chapter of the novel, which takes place years later from all of this. Why would Pheoby need to hear about this conversation again? The conversation is for us, the readers.  
It's an ancient magical tradition that burying an object can be used to strengthen a curse. Why do you think Joe isn't listening to doctors or Janie? 
Quiz 1 

Chapter 9

What kind of figurative language is this an example of? Look up the terms if you want a refresher.  
Many cultures have creation myths that seek to explain the beginning of things. The myth that Janie tells about sparks and mud is both beautiful and sad.  
Jaw-breakers are hard candies and sen-sen is a type of breath freshener originally marketed as a "breath perfume". Hezekiah wasn't stealing anything expensive.  
What was Janie actually doing?  

Chapter 10

This interaction between Janie and the newcomer could be described as _______. 
This seems to mean "make a mistake" of some kind, but it's meaning is unclear. Any guesses? 

Chapter 11

Look up the meaning of the word temporize. What does this show about Janie? 
In the Bible, Jesus is not the only person who walked on water. Peter does too, although he falls once. (This annotation contains an image)
Another Biblical reference. The Apostle Paul told the Gentiles he would build them a church and then he did.  
How would you describe Tea Cake? How is he different or similar from Joe or Logan? 
This seems to be an opening to a proposal: Tea Cake wants to "go long" with Janie.  
What does this thought indicate about Janie? 
Given Janie's description of a pear tree earlier in the book, what could this mean? 
Tea Cake has an interesting sense of humor.  
Do you trust Tea Cake? Why or why not? Cite evidence from the text.  

Chapter 12

Pheoby is _______  her friend.  
Possums apparently have this reputation! 
Pheoby is saying she won't tell others what she's heard.  
Janie decides to make plans with Tea Cake, even though ________. 

Chapter 13

This imagery here has a _______ tone. 
Janie desperately doesn't want to be alone anymore.  
Not exactly a common occurrence.  
What is slowly becoming clear about Tea Cake? 
It's not really possible to "practice dice" unless you are practicing how to cheat. (This annotation contains an image)
Iodine is commonly applied to open wounds.  
The Everglades are a vast area of marshland in Southern Florida.  (This annotation contains an image)
What might this be foreshadowing? 

Chapter 14

Here's a picture of this lake in the Everglades:  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a slang term for a juke joint, a bar filled with music and dancing. 
The fact that Tea Cake asked this question makes him different from _______. 

Chapter 15

What does this show? 

Chapter 16

The Saws are the Bahamians. 
Like Janie, Mrs. Turner is mixed race. Are their opinions about racial identity different? 
Booker T. Washington was a leader of the African American community in the early 1900s. One of his famous speeches lays out his vision of African Americans advancing in society through education and work. His views were criticized by some who wanted a more confrontational approach that would address the civil rights that African Americans still didn't have. Here's a picture: (This annotation contains an image)
What does Mrs. Turner like most about Janie? 
These are popular coastal towns in Florida. Here's Fort Lauderdale today: (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 17

Why did Tea Cake beat Janie? 
Based on the context, what do you think this slang term means? 
This is a term for bootleg moonshine. At this time, alcohol had to be bootlegged because of Prohibition, a ban on the sale of alcohol in the 1920s and early 1930s.  
Doesn't seem like a very serious fight. 
This fight was costly to Mrs. Turner. Based on evidence from before the fight, what could be likely? 

Chapter 18

The Seminoles are an American Indian tribe that used to occupy a large part of the South: (This annotation contains an image)
What does this suggest? 
Lias thinks that the movement of the birds is a prediction of the storm. 
Tea Cake doesn't pay attention to the evidence about the storm. Why not? 
These are both probably drinking games. 
How do you think Tea Cake was going to finish this sentence? 
What parts of the description of the storm throughout the chapter do you find particularly effective or evocative? Why?  
Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas. Here's what it looks like now: (This annotation contains an image)
Winds in a hurricane can reach devastating speeds. (This annotation contains an image)
Despite recent troubles, how does Janie still feel? 

Chapter 19

This is an interesting name for "Death" that Hurston came up with. Think about what it might mean.  
Under the assumption that courts don't treat the poor as well as they do the rich, Janie seems to be saying here that even if things are rigged against them, they can still try.  
What does this reveal about society in the South at the time? 
The Jim Crow laws were a series racial segregation laws enacted between 1876 and 1965. They were supposed to give African Americans a "separate but equal" status. Tea Cake notices that these burial practices are "separate" but definitely not "equal". (This annotation contains an image)
A privy house is usually an outdoor bathroom, an outhouse. They usually don't smell very nice. 
What is a main reason why Tea Cake wants to get back to the Glades? 
Why is Tea Cake's anger so strange? 
Since water is so essential to life, it's a bad sign when the body is rejecting it.  
The doctor suspects, with good reason, that Tea Cake got rabies from the dog. 
This reflection from Janie is a good opportunity for the reader to think about _________. 
This is a particularly gruesome simile.  
It is becoming more clear that Janie loves _____ more than her other husbands. 
This must be a "break-barrel" rifle, in which case to break it means to release the barrel to access the ammunition. (This annotation contains an image)
Rabies, left untreated, can lead to madness and violent outbursts. 
Why is Tea Cake so upset? 
Why do you think Janie would rather have women on the jury instead of men? 
This sentence compares the tongues of those in the back of the courtroom to ____. 
The exclusion of African Americans from juries remains a problem to this day. 
In Egyptian Mythology, Atum is the Evening Sun. Atum is also the underlying substance of the world. The Evening Sun also sets on the horizon, which represents the mystery beyond one's present circumstances. 
How does this compare to how she dressed for Joe's funeral, and what does this reveal about her feelings for Tea Cake and Joe? 

Chapter 20

This brings to mind the theme of ______ present throughout the book. 
Notice now instead of the formal prose, we're back to Janie's voice, with it's informal slang.  
A very moving simile.  
Quiz 2 
Reflect on this theme of horizons that is found throughout the book. What do they mean for Janie? Do they mean something for you?