Their Eyes Were Watching God Reading Questions
1. Describe the contrast made for the “porch sitters” as workers and as storytellers (1-2).
2. How do the porch sitters respond to Janie’s return to town?
3. What is Janie’s impression of the porch sitters?
1. Janie has an identity problem until she is around six. Why?
racial identity problem
personal identity problem
social identity problem
2. On page 12, the narration changes. Why might it be necessary for someone else to begin
telling Janie’s story now?
3. On pages 10-11, the narrator describes Janie’s awakening urges to experience life, love,
etc… Where does she first notice this urge?
4. What does Nanny do to short circuit Janie’s longing to experience life?
5. What simile is used to describe the way Nanny treats Janie’s first kiss? (PAGE 12) *HINT: KINDA
6. What are Nanny’s plans for Janie?
7. How does Janie feel about Nanny’s plans for her?
8. What metaphor does Nanny use to describe the plight of black women? What does she
mean? (PAGE 14)
9. What was Nanny’s mulatto daughter’s name? How might the name relate to Janie’s
experiences under the pear tree?
10. What parallel experiences have implanted negative fears about men in Nanny’s head?
1. What troubles Janie about her marriage to Logan Killicks? (PAGES 22-23)
2. What is Nanny’s definition of the good life? (What does Nanny think is important in life –
especially in regards to Logan Killicks?)
3. Chapter three ends with Janie’s first dream dying. What had that dream been?
1. Describe Joe Starks.
2. What metaphor does Joe use to describe his lifelong dream? What does he mean? (PAGE
3. What is the significance of Joe and Janie’s meeting under the trees?
4. What does Logan Killicks do to finally make Janie decide to leave?
5. What symbolic action does Janie do that indicates her readiness for change, as she leaves
6. Janie leaves with what she calls a new dream. What is it? How is it different from her first
dream? (PAGES 30-31)
1. How does Joe Starks get his reputation started in West Maitland/Eatonville?
2. What general lesson about speaking do Janie and Tony Taylor learn at the grand opening of
Joe Stark’s store? (PAGES 39-41) (IN OTHER WORDS, WHO IS THE SPEAKER OF THE TOWN AND WHY?)
3. What honor is bestowed upon Joe because of his ability to speak and move the people?
4. On page 40 we see Joe’s first effort to silence Janie, to keep her from her own “voicing.”
Describe that incident.
5. How does Janie react to Joe’s silencing her?
6. What does Joe ask of Janie that is parallel to what Killicks asks?
7. How does Janie feel about her second marriage? (PAGE 44)
8. What is Joe Stark’s definition of the good life? How does his compare with Nanny’s?
1. What significance does the store porch play in Janie’s life? (PAGES 50-51, 53)
2. What two demands does Joe make upon Janie that keeps her from being herself? Why
does he make them? (PAGES 50-51)
3. Janie’s first oration comes as a shock to the town. How does Hambo describe her “voice?”
4. Find an example of hyperbole (see literary terms) on page 62. Explain its meaning.
5. One page 67, the narrator says that Janie “learned to hush.” Why has she been forced to
learn this lesson?
6. Jody kills another of Janie’s dreams with what aggressive/abusive act? What does she learn
about her marriage? (page 69)
7. What significant act does Janie commit that begins her finding a “voice?”
1. How has marriage and silence affected Janie?
2. Janie finally can take no more verbal abuse from Jody. What does she say to silence him?
3. What is “playing the dozens?” Why does Sam Watson mention this game after Janie’s
4. What effect do Janie’s words have on Jody’s psyche? (PAGE 75-76)
1. How does Jody treat Janie when he gets sick?
2. Jody is on his death bed when Janie finally tries to tell him something about himself and her.
What does she say has been behind his lack of acceptance of her as a person? (PAGE 82)
3. At Jody’s death, what symbolic gesture does Janie make to assert her sense of self?
1. The narrator uses the metaphor, “Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the
funeral behind her veil.” What about Janie’s behavior is being described?
2. What two small changes does Janie make after Jody’s death? (PAGE 85)
3. What resentment does Janie harbor for her grandmother?
4. What does she say Nanny took away from her?
1. Upon their first meeting, what kinds of things do Janie and Vergible Woods (Tea Cake) do?
2. This chapter closes with an analogy; the moon “quenching the thirst of the day.” How does
this reflect Janie’s situation?
1. How is Tea Cake’s treatment of Janie different than Logan’s and Jody’s?
2. What speech characteristic does Tea Cake encourage in Janie? (PAGE 104)
1. What is the town’s reaction to Tea Cake and Janie’s relationship?
2. What is Tea Cake offering Janie in this relationship? (PAGE 105)
3. What does Janie mean when she says Tea Cake “done taught me de maiden language all
1. What was the narrator’s reason for telling Annie Tyler’s story?
2. What has happened to Janie’s $200 dollars which she was keeping secret from Tea Cake?
3. What happens when Tea Cake tries to get the money back?
4. How does Tea Cake prove his sincerity to Janie? (PAGE 122)
1. What is the first thing Tea Cake teaches Janie once they get to “de muck?”
2. Tea Cake asks the same of Janie as had Killicks and Starks (PAGES 126-127). Yet Janie’s
reaction is totally different. What is asked? Why is the response different?
3. The new experiences have given Janie a new voice. Find the sentence on page 128 that
describes her change.
1. What happens to change Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship?
2. How does Janie react to this change? How is this different from her response in previous
1. Describe Mrs. Turner. How is she different from Janie?
Which of Janie’s husbands would she have suited?
2. How does Mrs. Turner feel about Tea Cake?
1. Like Jody, Tea Cake slaps Janie. How different is her reaction?
2. How does Tea Cake get even with Mrs. Turner for meddling in his marriage?
1. The personification, “The sea was walking the earth with a heavy heel” (PAGE 153) describes
the action in this chapter. What specifically does the line describe?
2. What happens to Tea Cake as he tries to save Janie?
1. Describe the burial of the storm’s dead. (PAGES 161-162)
2. What sickness overtakes Tea Cake?
3. How does the sickness affect Tea Cake’s moods?
4. What must Janie do to save herself?
5. How do Janie’s friends turn on her?
6. How does Janie’s new voice help to save herself? (PAGE 178)
1. Janie mentions the “horizon” motif on page 182. What does she mean?
2. How has Janie’s telling of her story helped her friend Phoebe? (PAGE 182-183)
3. What is Janie’s concept of “the good life?”