Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston Summary and Analysis Chapter 9

Summary

Janie spares no expense for Joe's funeral. Even people from neighboring towns attend his funeral. She does what is expected of her as a widow, but she hides her true feelings behind the required mourning attire. Inwardly, Janie feels no sorrow.

Janie's first act of freedom is to burn all of the headrags that Joe made her wear. Aside from that, she makes no changes. She keeps the store with the help of a teenage youth, Hezekiah, who does his best to emulate Joe's mannerisms, even down to his cigar. Now Janie can sit on the porch and talk if she chooses.

What should she do? Seek her long-lost mother, Leafy? Go back to her hometown and tend to Nanny's grave? An undertaker of a nearby town is courting Janie, and moreover, suddenly men who were scarcely interested in her and Joe are now driving distances to inquire about her. For Janie, the best course is to enjoy her freedom and make the most of being alive.

Analysis

The funeral for the mule in Chapter 6 is a parody of every funeral and burial in which the townspeople of Eatonville have even been involved. In contrast, Joe's funeral may well be the most elaborate that they have ever seen. Janie spared no expense to make sure that Joe left "as he had come — with the out-stretched hand of power."

Janie's outward appearance and her inward thoughts contrast following the death of Joe. While the townspeople mourn the death of Joe, Janie appears to be grieving. However, inwardly, Janie feels no sorrow, only a sense of calm. Janie attended Joe's funeral, but inside, she "went rollicking with the springtime across the world." Finally, Janie is free of the man who stifled her individuality. In her first act of freedom following Joe's death, Janie burns her headrags to symbolize her new independence from Joe's control.

While many women who lose their husbands feel weak and insecure, Janie does not. Rather, Janie actually gains strength from Joe's death. Even though Janie endures intense loneliness, she is strong enough to manage her personal life and the store as a result of enduring Joe's constant ridicule. Ironically, Joe's domination may have made Janie a stronger person. Janie begins to enjoy her freedom: ". . . she liked being lonesome for a change. This freedom feeling was fine." One other positive outcome of Joe's death is Janie's deepening friendship with Pheoby. No longer is Janie restricted from maintaining friendships and socializing with the townspeople. With Joe's death, Janie has gained the freedom she has desired for so long.

Glossary

gold and red and purple, the gloat and glamor of secret orders Joe evidently belonged to several lodges or fraternal orders, and each one has a different ritual to be performed when a member dies. Hurston mentions the Elks (BPOE) band that plays at Joe's funeral.

celebration funerals and wakes often become festive affairs when family and friends gather, not only for the burial but also for a celebration of the life of the deceased.

set for still bait a term for fishing, meaning that the bait is easy for the fish to grab.

like a pack of chessy cats The reference is to the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, who had an all-knowing smile. Here, Janie is saying that all of her gentlemen callers have smug, too-confident grins on their faces.

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