Their Eyes Were Watching God
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, race is a very important theme because the
novel follows a black woman as she struggles throughout her life with her
racial identity. Throughout the book there are multiple instances when colored
men and women are treated differently than those who are white. The novel
portrays race during the 20th century in the southern states of America. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, race is focused on strong culture and skin color. Because
whites and blacks are not treated equally in this novel, race is an important theme.
Although Mrs. Turner is colored, she is racist towards darker toned people. She tells Janie she should not marry Tea Cake because of his skin tone.
Tea Cake is a darker-skinned black. Due to his skin tone Mrs. Turner believes he is not the right man for Janie to marry.
Janie is unique due to her fair skin color. She is a 1/4 white, black woman.
Nanny is a strong believer in the idea that black men and women have less power and authority than whites.
“…when he heard all about ‘em makin’ a town all outa colored folks, he knowed dat was de place he wanted to be. He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de sayso” (Hurston 28).
Joe Starks always wanted to have a voice, but he was restricted because of his skin color. The white men and women were given a bigger voice than those who were black. The idea of having an entirely colored town excited the blacks, because it would give them a chance to have a voice.
“…de white man is de ruler of everything as far as Ah been able to find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see” (Hurston 14).
Throughout the novel there is a social hierarchy based on race. The white men and women are entitled and have more power than blacks. Nanny points out that blacks, especially black women, have limited power in the world.
“If it wuzn’t for so many black folks it wouldn’t be no race problem. De whites folks would take us in aid dem. De black ones is holdin’ us back” (Hurston 141).
People complain about the occurring racial issues regardless of the causes. Some believe that there would be no problems if there were less blacks, while others believe if everyone were to be treated equally the issue would diminish.
"Well, you know whut dey say "uh white man and uh n***** woman is de freest thing on earth. Dey do as dey please" (Hurston 189).
As the black men see it, the white men and black women are held at a different standard than the rest of their races. They have more freedom and power than others and they are able to do what they want. However, the black women are still considered to be less important than white men.
Relationship to other themes
As shown in the history of the United States, the color of skin can affect how much power a person has. The difference of power between blacks and whites is displayed throughout the novel.
The black men and women realize that those who are white have a voice and can say whatever they want, but the blacks can not.
“Man, dese white folks got ways for telling’ anything dey wants tuh know” (Hurston 66).
Before and during the 20th century whites were considered superior to blacks. This resulted in slavery and discrimination. During this time, many blacks were treated as property.
Race plays a big role in who people love and marry.
“Ah jus’ couldn’t see mahself married to no black man. It’s too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race” (Hurston 140). -Mrs. Turner