"Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston, Chapters 16-20

Considered a seminal work of African-American literature, Their Eyes Were Watching God is notable for its strong and independent female protagonist.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Foreword, Chapters 1-5, Chapters 6-10, Chapters 11-15, Chapters 16-20, Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. scorn
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    She did not laugh the “Saws” to scorn as she had heard the people doing in the season.
  2. bewildered
    perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements
    Janie was dumb and bewildered before and she clucked sympathetically and wished she knew what to say.
  3. affront
    a deliberately offensive act
    It was so evident that Mrs. Turner took black folk as a personal affront to herself.
  4. delegate
    a person appointed or elected to represent others
    “You oughta meet mah brother. He’s real smart. Got dead straight hair. Dey made him uh delegate tuh de Sunday School Convention and he read uh paper on Booker T. Washington and tore him tuh pieces!”
  5. sacrilege
    blasphemous behavior
    According to all Janie had been taught this was sacrilege so she sat without speaking at all.
  6. heifer
    young cow
    “Ah know yuh didn’t. Ah been heah uh long time listenin’ to dat heifer run me down tuh de dawgs uh try tuh tole you off from me.”
  7. prospect
    the possibility of future success
    They talked about the prospects for the coming season for a moment, then Tea Cake said, “Yo’ wife don’t seem tuh have nothin’ much tuh do, so she kin visit uh lot. Mine got too much tuh do tuh go vis­itin’ and too much tuh spend time talkin’ tuh folks dat visit her.”
  8. snub
    a refusal to recognize someone you know
    She felt honored by Janie’s acquaintance and she quickly forgave and forgot snubs in order to keep it.
  9. insensate
    without compunction or human feeling
    Insensate cruelty to those you can whip, and groveling submission to those you can’t.
  10. grovel
    show submission or fear
    Insensate cruelty to those you can whip, and groveling submission to those you can’t.
  11. deity
    a supernatural being worshipped as controlling the world
    It was inevitable that she should accept any inconsistency and cruelty from her deity as all good worshippers do from theirs.
  12. homage
    respectful deference
    All gods who receive homage are cruel.
  13. indiscriminate
    not marked by fine distinctions
    Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion.
  14. smite
    inflict a heavy blow on, with the hand, a tool, or a weapon
    Her god would smite her, would hurl her from pinnacles and lose her in deserts, but she would not forsake his altars.
  15. pinnacle
    a lofty peak
    Her god would smite her, would hurl her from pinnacles and lose her in deserts, but she would not forsake his altars.
  16. seraph
    an angel of the first order
    Behind her crude words was a belief that somehow she and others through worship could attain her paradise—a heaven of straighthaired, thin-lipped, high-nose boned white seraphs.
  17. fanaticism
    excessive intolerance of opposing views
    Beyond her faith was a fanaticism to defend the altars of her god.
  18. velocity
    distance travelled per unit time
    Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity.
  19. havoc
    violent and needless disturbance
    Havoc was there with her mouth wide open.
  20. desolation
    a bleak atmosphere
    Tea Cake and Janie stood on the edge of things and looked over the desolation.
  21. trifle
    act frivolously
    The mother of malice had trifled with men.
  22. Jim Crow
    barrier preventing blacks from participating in activities
    “Look lak dey think God don’t know nothin’ ’bout de Jim Crow law.”
  23. privy
    a room or building equipped with one or more toilets
    "...So far as he’s concerned, all dem he don’t know oughta be tried and sentenced tuh six months behind de United States privy house at hard smellin'."
  24. consolidated
    joined together into a whole
    So de white man figger dat anything less than de Uncle Sam’s consolidated water closet would be too easy.
  25. frantic
    marked by uncontrolled excitement or emotion
    Janie was frantic with alarm.
  26. snarl
    make an angry, sharp, or abrupt noise
    He almost snarled when he saw her dressed to go.
  27. ferocity
    the property of being wild or turbulent
    He gave her a look full of blank ferocity and gurgled in his throat.
  28. delirium
    a usually brief state of excitement and mental confusion
    She noted that even in his delirium he took good aim.
  29. frenzied
    excessively agitated
    She threw up the barrel of the rifle in frenzied hope and fear.
  30. pry
    move or force in an effort to get something open
    Janie struggled to a sitting position and pried the dead Tea Cake’s teeth from her arm.
  31. parched
    dried out by heat or excessive exposure to sunlight
    “Now, Pheoby, don’t feel too mean wid de rest of’em ’cause dey’s parched up from not knowin’ things..."
  32. fetid
    offensively malodorous
    The wind through the open windows had broomed out all the fetid feeling of absence and nothingness.

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