Their Eyes Were Watching God: Chapters 7-11

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12172

Death is a subject most people choose to ignore, but it stalks all colors, genders, and economic levels. Cultures try various methods to stave it off. Learn what's at the "root" of a marital tragedy!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


For what do you think the above ingredients might be used?

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So far, you’ve read about Janie’s failed marriage to Logan Killicks and her marriage to Joe Starks.

  • What is the state of Janie and Joe’s marriage at this point in the novel?

Briefly write down your response so you can compare it to the information you read in the chapters for this lesson.

In this section of the novel, Zora Neale Hurston examines the theme of death. During his illness, Joe consults a root doctor rather than a traditional physician. Root doctors were commonly known and patronized in rural Southern black communities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In contemporary medicine, holistic doctors follow many of the practices that root doctors did by prescribing natural remedies for illnesses. To learn more about this cultural tradition, read the following article. As you read, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  • How is the practice of “working roots” different from “voodoo”?
  • What is the origin of root doctors?
  • What methods does a root doctor use to treat an illness?
  • How does a root doctor treat a spell that has been placed on a person?
  • What is “mojo”?

Read Root Doctors, by John J. Beck, © 2006 University of North Carolina Press, and answer the questions. Then, read the following chapters of the novel.

Read Chapters Seven through Eleven in Their Eyes Were Watching God. You will need to obtain a print copy of the book. You can find one at your local library or a bookstore. As you read, take notes on Janie and Joe’s relationship. Write down at least six events from Janie and Joe’s marriage that affect their relationship.

When you’ve finished reading and taking notes, move on to the Got It? section to explore these issues further.

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