Analysis Of The Title In Their Eyes Were Watching God

Hurston has left part of her title in Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora N. Hurston open for interpretation. The novel has many characters that mention God. This pronoun is used in the title to refer to the people from Eatonville. It also includes African Americans, because both groups look up at Joe Starks (who is a higher authority) and God.

The novel shows the town of Eatonville watching Joe due to his godlike qualities. Joe’s public snub of Janie, who was asked to deliver a speech by the town council, shows that they are watching. They fear Joe because they recognize his godlike persona that he has displayed through the development of Eatonville. It shows that Joe has gained a lot of power because they are unwilling to criticize him for not letting Jane speak. Joe humiliating Janie is not a problem because everyone is too focused on Joe. They accept Joe’s statement that Janie shouldn’t speak and listen to him. This shows just how easily the minds of townspeople can be molded. Joe can take the power by simply being a good leader. He hasn’t really done anything to help this town, but he is their main focus. Joe, the only character who has shown leadership, quickly gains their attention, support and submission. Joe’s strength and the townpeople watching him at the assembly are also shown. Joe’s desire for power makes him buy a new streetlight for his town and organize a special ceremony to celebrate it. Joe wins the hearts of the people and power by doing this. The streetlight may seem like a generous gift to the community, but in reality it’s just a tool for Joe to ascend the “throne”. Joe’s true motivation is revealed by his choice of how to present the gift. Joe decides to display the lamp first, then celebrate to show everyone what he has accomplished for them. Joe’s desire of being the god for the town can also be seen when he mentions that God “makes the sun” and raises it in the dawn, then lowers it during the night. Joe does this to show the town he’s their leader and that he has the godlike power to control the light and darkness. Joe buys the light and gives it to the community, acting as if he were God. Joe’s ability to draw the attention of his community and get them to want to listen to him and see what he does is due to this celebration. Joe is able to gain power through his leadership, which allows him undivided attention from the citizens of Eatonville.

The title of this novel could also refer to African-Americans living in the Everglades. Janie Tea Cake are particularly affected by the situation when they have no other choice but to look at God. Janie Tea Cake Motor Boat question God as “Ole Massa does His Work Now” when the storm is passing through the Everglades. The African-Americans as a group are relying heavily on white people’s advice. After they cannot ask for white help anymore, they start to question God. This shows that they’ve lost their faith in God. It is ironic that God’s name is “Ole Massa,” the same as a slave owner. It’s almost like God, as a white master, is creating the storm. The African-Americans may be aware that they were oppressed by the whites and in some cases still are. However, they place greater value on their God’s opinion, which is not based on discrimination. Janie Teacake and Janie are finally forced to confront God when they have no choice. But soon, they begin to watch God instead of just questioning Him. Then, when all else fails, they begin to watch God. Watching God after everything else fails in Janie Tea Cake Motorboat represents African Americans as an entire regaining trust in God.

Zora Neale-Hurston left parts of their title unclear to encourage interpretation. The title could mean that both the African Americans and the residents of Eatonville watch God because they need help. In both cases, the almighty figure asserts himself to attract attention and get people to “watch”.


  • stanleybyrne

    Stanley Byrne is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher. He has degrees in education and political science from the University of Notre Dame and has worked in various teaching and research positions since he graduated in 2014. He is the author of a number of educational blog posts and has written for Huffington Post, The Guardian, and Salon.