Pear tree: In her Nanny's back yard, Janie lies beneath the pear tree when,
"the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink
into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch
creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been
summoned to behold a revelation" (11). Janie's youthful idealism leads her to believe that this intense sensuality must be similar to
the intimacy between lovers, and she wishes "to be a pear tree - any tree in
bloom!" (11). The image suggests a wholeness - as bees pollinate blossoms
paralleling human sexual intercourse - which Janie finds missing in her
marriages to both Logan Killicks and Joe Starks, but finally discovers in her relationship with Tea Cake.
Mules: Janie's grandmother initiates comparison between black women and
mules, declaring "De[African-American] woman is de mule uh de world so fur
as Ah can see" (14). In addition, both of Janie's first two husbands own
mules, and the way they respectively treat them parallels the way they treat
Janie. Logan Killicks works his mule demandingly; Joe Starks, having bought
Matt Bonner's mule from him, puts it out to pasture as a status symbol rather
than using it.
Janie's hair: Forced by Joe Starks (who refuses to allow other men to lust
after his wife's hair) to be worn up under a head rag throughout their
marriage, Janie's hair functions as a symbol of the submission Joe demanded of her. Janie surrenders to Joe's will externally by wearing the head rag,
yet remains steadfast internally against Joe's abuse. Thus, her hair suggests that Janie "had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew
how not to mix them" (68). After Joe's death, Janie burns all of her head
rags in a symbolic act of liberation.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: The novel's title is taken from Chapter 18, as
the hurricane strikes the Everglades. Tea Cake and Janie "sat in company
with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls
and their souls asking if he meant to measure their puny might against His.
They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God"
(151). This passage, taken in conjunction with other occurrences in Their
Eyes Were Watching God, signifies God's arbitrary will, which provides Janie
and her companions with a sense of fate and destiny. Janie recognizes that
people have to be watching because life comes down hard on them, as evidenced
in the case of many characters throughout the novel.
Mrs. Turner: please see Character Profiles section.