Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

Summary

The marriage is still in its first year when Logan reassesses his bride. Work on his profitable farm is hard, and he needs help in the fields. His first wife, he points out to Janie, worked hard — plowed and chopped wood — and he expects the same from Janie. Logan remarks that Janie has been spoiled both by her grandmother and him.

One day, Logan gives Janie the task of cutting seed potatoes while he drives the mule over to Lake City to inquire about buying a second mule, a gentle animal that Janie can use to plow. Janie settles down in a pleasant spot in the yard to do her potato work. She can see the road from where she is sitting, and soon Joe Starks comes down the road and greets her. She gives him some refreshing well water, and they talk. In introducing himself, he says that he hails from Georgia. She tells him enough about herself for him to know that she does not belong on a backwoods potato farm. He teases her about being so young and scorns the idea of her being behind a plow. Joe goes on his way, and Janie returns to her chore, dreaming of love and a less strenuous life.

Joe and Janie meet every day after that, and one night, Janie has a talk with Logan and suggests that she might run off and leave him. Although he is deeply hurt, he laughs at the idea and tells her that if she did, she would soon be back. Early the next day, Logan asserts his power over Janie by demanding that she leave her work in the kitchen to help him move a manure pile. Janie refuses, and they argue. The fact that Janie has not been raised to do farm work or hire out as a domestic irritates him. He accuses her of degrading him — honest and hard-working man that he is. Logan, the tough, old farmer, is almost reduced to tears, but Janie is adamant. Furthermore, Janie now has a means of escape because she and Joe have plans to meet.

Janie returns to the kitchen to finish some breakfast preparations, then leaves the farm. Joe is waiting for her, and they ride off in a hired rig, headed toward Green Cove Springs, where they will be married.

Analysis

Chapter 4 serves to show the decline of Janie and Logan's marriage. After a year of marriage, Logan begins to reevaluate Janie's role as his wife. He desires a wife who is hardworking. Logan lacks respect for Janie, and he treats her almost like a slave, requiring her to complete mundane tasks. Logan believes Janie has been spoiled both by her grandmother and by him. When Logan confronts Janie, he compares her to his first wife, who chopped wood for him without making any complaints.

For the first time, Janie becomes feisty with Logan, saying "If you can stand not to chop wood and tote wood Ah reckon you can stand not to git no dinner." She stands up to Logan again when she tells him, "You ain't done me no favor by marryin' me. And if dat's what you call yo'self doin, Ah don't thank yuh for it." This is not the life that Janie had hoped for, but her luck changes when she hears a man whistling as he walks down the road.

Joe Starks, a stylish, sophisticated man from Georgia, is introduced in this chapter. Joe serves as a sharp contrast to Logan. He tells Janie that she has no business working in the fields. He believes, rather, that she should be relaxing and enjoying life. He says, "A pretty doll-baby lak you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo'self and eat p'taters dat other folks plant just special for you." Janie likes Joe because "he spoke for change and chance." For Janie, Joe represents something new — a "far horizon." This becomes Janie's new journey. She desires to experience what the world has to offer, and Joe can assist her on this journey. As Janie leaves, she knows "The change was bound to do her good." In reference to the pear tree metaphor, Joe serves as the "bee" for Janie's "bloom."

Glossary

freezolity indifference, or a lack of interest.

sleeveholders fancy elastic bands similar to women's garters, worn on the upper arm of a shirt sleeve to be sure that the cuff falls exactly where the wearer wants it.

in and through Georgy living in and passing through the state of Georgia.

sugar-tit cloth tied around a bit of sugar to form a nipple-like pacifier for a baby.

ribbon-cane syrup sorghum molasses.

fall down and wash up fall down and worship.

yo' royal diasticutis a sarcastic reference to Janie's buttocks.

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