Their Eyes Were Watching God Thesis Statements & Important Quotes

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a summary of different elements in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.

Click here for a full summary of “Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Nature Symbolism in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel that is brimming with references to nature. Janie, in particular, has a particular affection for nature, and it holds special meaning for her. Select some of the key passages in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” where nature plays a central role. Identify the symbolic significance of the specific elements in the scene you have selected. You might, for example, want to choose one of the first passages about nature, that of Janie beneath the pear tree (pp. 10-11). What does the pear tree symbolize? Be sure to push beneath conventional interpretations of nature symbols and metaphors (i.e.: seasons as symbolic of cycles of life), and reach deeply for fresh, text-specific interpretations that you can substantiate with evidence.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Answering Rhetorical Questions in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

A rhetorical question is a query that is articulated but which does not necessarily expect an answer. There are numerous rhetorical questions that the characters in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” ask of themselves and each other. (See the quotes section for just a few examples). Considering the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” as a whole, which of these rhetorical questions might you be able to answer as the reader who has the entire story? Which of the rhetorical questions remain unanswerable? Why? What is the significance of asking questions, and is it always important to find answers?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Symbol of the Mule in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

In addition to the frequent references to nature, certain animals have symbolic weight in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The animal with the greatest symbolic charge in this novel is the mule. Mentioned frequently throughout “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, the mule obviously represents the carrier of heavy loads and burdens, but it can also—and does—represent stubborn resistance. Study some of the passages in which mules are used as symbolic representations and make an argument about which reading you find more compelling and why. Do the characters in the novel find positive qualities in the mule and, by extension, in themselves?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Why Were Their Eyes Watching God?

Titles are the reader’s first introduction to a novel, hinting at its content and, possibly, its theme. In the case of Hurston’s novel, what is the significance of the title? Is there a specific moment in the book where the title’s meaning became clear to you? What is God’s role in the novel’s development?

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: “Their Eyes Were Watching God” as a Feminist Novel

Their Eyes Were Watching God has been categorized as a feminist novel by many critics. Would you agree? Is Janie a feminist throughout the novel, or is there more evidence to claim that she develops what might be called a feminist consciousness through the intensity and insights of her experiences? What characteristics make a novel feminist, anyway? Persuade your reader of your position by providing thoughtful analysis and textual evidence.

Click here for a full summary of “Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

** For another entry on Zora Neale Hurston and her works, check out the “Sweat” PaperStarter **


This list of important quotations from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.

“She was seeking confirmation of the voice and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers. A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an answer seeking her, but where? When? How?" (11)

“So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule un de world so fur as Ah can see." (14)

“Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high, but they wasn’t no pulpit for me. Freedom found me wid a baby daughter in mah arms, so Ah said Ah’d take a broom and a cook pot and throw up a highway through de wilderness for her." (15)

“So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time. But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things. What things? She didn’t know exactly." (23)

“From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them." (31)

“Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business." (70)

“All dis bowin’ down, all dis obedience under yo’ voice—dat ain’t whut Ah rushed off down de road tuh find out about you." (82)

“It was all according to the way you see things. Some people could look at a mud-puddle and see an ocean with ships. But Nanny belonged to that other kind that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon…and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her." (85)

“Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves." (183)

“Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see." (184)

Reference: Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

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