“The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.”
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006).
The way Hurston shows that men can hold an image in their mind of physical entities and properties of a woman and her body, then presents a contrast of how she sees those things as “weapons against her strength”. It was a sentence that expressed, from the beginning, the gender differences between men and women that would continue throughout the rest of Hurston’s novel.