Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston Summary and Analysis Chapter 18

Summary

Late summer is hurricane season in the Everglades. Without taking the omens of the inevitable storm seriously, Tea Cake and Janie watch small groups of Seminoles leaving, heading toward Palm Beach Road and forsaking the money-making muck in order to survive the ominous, still invisible hurricane.

The fury does not wait long. In a sudden burst of thunder and lightning, the storm hits — and the world of Janie, Tea Cake, and the migrants is destroyed. As the people cluster together in fear of the elements, their eyes are not watching each other or the storm. In silent prayer, they are watching God. They make an effort to go to higher ground, but they are nearly swept away by the tremendous surge of water when the lake breaks through the dikes and surges toward them in a tall wall of rushing water. Tea Cake makes a valiant effort to keep Janie afloat by urging her to hang onto the tail of a cow. As the two struggle to survive the raging current, a rabid dog that is clinging to the cow bites Tea Cake on the cheek.

Analysis

The departure of the Seminoles from the muck foreshadows the arrival of the destructive hurricane. The migrant workers on the muck believe the Indians are wrong about the imminent storm, as fair weather continues, the beans are growing well, and prices are still fair. After the exit of the Seminoles, even the animals also head east, seemingly aware of the approaching hurricane. Still, though, Tea Cake, Janie, and most of the other migrant workers remain in the muck, unprepared for the threatening storm. "Money's too good on the muck" for Tea Cake to leave. Soon, these people will experience the destruction and terror associated with enduring a hurricane.

Hurston personifies the sea by comparing it to a monster that "began to roll in his bed." As the sea breaks through the dikes, Hurston reveals that "the monstropolous beast had left his bed" and continues on the path of destruction as the monster "was walking the earth with a heavy heel."

For the first time, Hurston uses the phrase that she also uses as the title for the novel. As Tea Cake, Janie and their friends try to wait out the storm at home, they wonder if God "meant to measure their puny might against His." The lights go out, the storm rages, and Tea Cake, Janie, and their friends "seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God." They realize that in the midst of such a powerful and destructive hurricane, they have no power to stop the storm. They must wait for it to end and hope that they will survive it.

Glossary

laden loaded; burdened or afflicted.

stolid having or showing little or no emotion or sensitivity; unexcitable; impassive.

money and insurance papers This is further evidence that Tea Cake is a responsible man, even though he ignores the storm warnings and will be stubborn about not seeing a doctor.

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