Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston Summary and Analysis Chapter 16

Summary

Planting and harvesting are seasonal, and when the season ends, the migrants leave. Tea Cake and Janie stay on, and she becomes friendly with Mrs. Turner, an unattractive, overbearing woman who, with her mousy husband, runs a restaurant. The two women visit frequently, and Mrs. Turner expresses an attitude of bigotry that appalls Janie. Mrs. Turner has deep-seated prejudices against dark-complexioned people and rough migrants, even though they are her chief customers. Unlike Janie, Tea Cake feels angry and wounded about Mrs. Turner's bigotry. He vows to boycott the restaurant, but satisfactory eating places must have been in short supply because he and Janie continue to eat there.

Analysis

In this chapter, the character of Mrs. Turner is introduced. An unattractive, arrogant woman, Mrs. Turner, along with her husband, owns the local restaurant. She has deep-seated beliefs about the superiority of the Caucasian race. She and Janie had seen one another throughout the season, but they have not come to know one another until the season ended.

For the first time, Janie faces prejudice. Mrs. Turner only pursues a friendship with Janie because she has lighter skin than the rest of the migrant workers. She shares her strong beliefs with Janie as she tells her that "Ah can't stand black niggers . . . . Ah hates tuh see folks lak me and you mixed up wid 'em." Ironically, though, Mrs. Turner's livelihood depends on the support of the black migrant workers. The barrage of racist comments made by Mrs. Turner bewilders Janie. She also realizes that there is nothing that she can do to discourage Mrs. Turner from thinking the way that she does.

Hurston uses the image of an altar to relate Mrs. Turner's hatred for anyone who is not Caucasian. This altar represents the "unattainable — Caucasian characteristics for all." Mrs. Turner's beliefs are so strong that she would defend them at "the altars of her god." Through "worship," she hopes to "attain her paradise — a heaven of straight-haired, thin-lipped, high nose boned white seraphs." Hurston uses Mrs. Turner as an example of intolerance in the novel.

Glossary

Bahaman drummers Hurston worked with Bahaman musicians in one of her theatrical efforts, and she used some of their nicknames for the characters in this novel.

Saws another name for Bahamans.

meriny skin like browned-egg-white meringue; a complexion color.

a vanishing-looking kind of man Mr. Turner's presence is so insignificant that he seems about to vanish.

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