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Chapter Analysis of Their Eyes were Watching God

Chapter 1: The Hero Returns

The chapter begins with Janie, the heroine, returning to her hometown. She walks down the main street, and is watched by the various residents of the town. They ridicule her clothes, and how she seems to have no money and is no longer with the young man she ran off with. Will Janie be able to overcome adversity and re-acclimate into the town she once knew so well? Or will she fall into the shadows, friendless and forgotten? Basically this chapter serves as the beginning of the book, but the end of the story Janie will soon tell to her loyal friend Phoebe. Also, the author takes this time to establish the characters of the “porch sitters” as judgmental, jealous, vindictive and crude.

Chapter 2: Nanny Shmanny, I Don’t Like Logan Killicks

Once again our Heroine returns for another chapter, desperate to make her good friend Phoebe understand the complexities of her long and twisted love life, before time runs out. Can Janie make Phoebe understand the relationship between Janie and her late Nanny? What does her kiss with Jonny Taylor mean? Is it eternal love at first site, or will Nanny make Janie marry Logan Killicks? Nanny actually makes Janie marry Killicks, because Nanny wants Janie to have everything she didn’t: a secure place in life, and the small comforts associated with that stability. This, however, is not what Janie wants for herself, which she will realize much later in life. Stay tuned for chapter 3…

Chapter 3: I Really Don’t Like Logan Killicks

Not so long ago, in a place not really all that far away… Janie prepares to get married to Logan Killicks, who she knows she does not love. Once she does move in with Logan, she figures that after awhile, she will grow to love him. After two months, her feelings have not changed, so she visits Nanny, who berates her for not being appreciative for how well off she is. Soon after, Nanny dies, and after a year of marriage to Logan, Janie still feels no love for him.

Chapter 4: Joe Starks Seems Like A Cool Guy

As their relationship wears on, Logan begins to treat Janie with less tenderness, and expects her to work more. She resents this, and the fact that she hasn’t grown to love him as her Nanny predicted. About this time, she meets Joe Starks, and ambitious, charismatic man, who she flirts with and talks about running away with. After another fight with Logan, in which he insulted her profusely, she runs off with Joe and they are promptly married.

Chapter 5: Jody Buys Eatonville

Joe Starks (who Janie calls “Jody”) and Janie arrive at Eatonville, a small, all-black town, with about a dozen houses. After Joe learns the town has only 50 acres and no mayor, he goes and buys another 200 from Captain Eaton, the original benefactor. After Joe buys the land, he states he will build a store and a post office, as well as a house for himself and Janie, at a town meeting. After the store is built, the citizens quickly name Joe the mayor of Eatonville. Janie is angered when he doesn’t let her give a speech, however. After the store, Joe erects a lamppost, celebrated with a huge feast. Janie begins to hint at wanting to spend more time with Joe, but he states he is only getting started. As the chapter concludes, Joe and the town begin to grow apart, and Janie becomes an object of respect and jealousy to the townsfolk.

Chapter 6: Janie the Mayors Wife

Janie is tasked with running the store, something she dislikes, especially since she has to wear her hair up (due to Joe’s jealous nature) and is forbidden to talk to the “trashy people” who sit on the porch. Joe shows a compassionate side after he buys an overworked mule, which he then lets rest, for Janie’s benefit. When the mule dies however, Janie is forbidden from the mock funereal, on the basis that it “isn’t proper” for a woman of her status. The imagery of vultures descending on the mule carcass foreshadows the future of Janie and Joe’s relationship. The chapter ends with Joe becoming more aggressive toward Janie, and an overall deterioration of their relationship.

Chapter 7: 20 Years Go By

Years go by, and Janie simply goes through the motions, detached from the everyday life she hates. As Joe ages, he begins to criticize Janie for how she is getting uglier and older, in attempt to draw attention away from himself. One day Janie makes a trivial mistake, and Joe insults her for her stupidity, and then her looks. Finally Janie snaps, and lashes back about how saggy, old, and “impotent” Joe has become, in the presence of the customers. Joe is mortified, and in a moment of rage, he strikes Janie in front of all the townspeople.

Chapter 8: Joe Starks Dies Of Complex Kidney Failure

Joe moves into another room in the house after the confrontation, and his health very quickly deteriorates. Janie sends for a doctor, who reveals that Joe is dying and nothing can help him. Janie pities Joe, and tries to speak with him one last time. She goes into his room, and begins to argue with him, about how he is dying, and how controlling and oppressive he has been to her. Joe dies while Janie talks, and when he does, she feels a sense of release. She symbolically lets her hair down, but then quickly puts it back up as she realizes she should be in mourning.

Chapter 9: Janie Isn’t Sad

Janie begins a period of mourning after Joe’s funereal, although inside she is actually very happy about her new independence. Soon men begin to attempt courting Janie, but she refuses to let anyone in. She confides in Phoebe, her friend, saying that she enjoys her newfound freedom too much to get tied down by another man. After six months, Janie begins to wear white again, even though people may think she isn’t sad about Joe’s death. She states to Pheobe that the mourning shouldn’t last any longer than the grief.

Chapter 10: Joe? Joe Who?

One day, Hezekiah (the store manager after Joe’s death) leaves the store to go watch the baseball game. A tall stranger then enters the store, and buys some cigarettes from Janie. They have instant chemistry, and begin to talk flirt, and even go as far as *gasp* playing checkers together (apparently this has some sexual connotation). They flirt all night long, and the man leaves, after walking Janie home and telling his name, which is Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods.

Chapter 11: He’s a Gold Digger

Janie fears that Tea Cake is only interested in her wealth, fears that grow throughout the week she doesn’t see him. She decides to be rude to him the next time he visits, but his joking nature disarms her hostility immediately. Again they play “checkers” (whoa now) and stay up late into the night, eating cake and fishing. Hezekiah warns Janie that Tea Cake is too poor and lowly in status, but she disregards him and continues to spend time with him. That night, Janie falls asleep in Teacake’s Lap, and when she awakes, Janie tells him she likes him as a good friend. Teacake is crushed, saying he cares more strongly. Janie says that’s his “night talk” and that he’ll feel different in the morning. Tea Cake leaves and doesn’t return for two days. He wakes her up later in the week by knocking on the door and telling her he still feels the same, and three days later Tea Cake shows up at Janie’s house with a car, stating he wants to make their “relationship” public by going to the town picnic.

Chapter 12: Apparently He Isn’t a Gold Digger

When Tea Cake and Janie attend the picnic they become the topic of scandalous rumors. The town doesn’t approve of Janie’s apparent lack of sadness over Joe’s death, and her foolish behavior (being with a younger man). Pheobe talks with Janie about all of these issues, but Janie tells Pheobe that for once in her (Janie) life, she is happy with who she’s with. Janie tells of her plans to sell the store, and leave town with Tea Cake, and later marry him.

Chapter 13: Tea Cake Buys $200 Worth of Chicken

Janie leaves Eatonville and travels to Jacksonville, where her and Tea Cake are married. A week goes by, and then Tea Cake, along with the $200 Janie had with her, disappears. Janie is distraught, and thinks of Ms. Tyler, the widow who was ripped off by a young man similar to Tea Cake. Tea Cake returns, having spent the money on food for him and his friends. He promises he will get Janie her money back, and disappears again, coming back with $322 and a wound inflicted by the loser. Janie tells Tea Cake about the rest of her money, but Tea Cake says he wont touch her money, that they will move to the Everglades so he can work and provide for her.

Chapter 14: Who Would Want To Work in the Everglades Anyway?

Janie is now completely in love with Tea Cake, and her desire for him is amplified by his frequent absences. When they move to the everglades, Janie falls in love with the fertile fields, and relaxed lifestyle they have in the everglades. Janie becomes lonely however, when Tea Cake begins to work, so she fixes the problem by working in the fields with him. They are now perfectly happy, working together by day, and being the center of the community social life by night. She is amused while thinking how the people of Eatonville would judge her now, and she pities their obsession with status.

Chapter 15: Chunkie Nunkie

During this chapter, Janie becomes jealous of Nunkie (Chunky Nunkie) who is always flirting with Tea Cake. One day her flirtatiousness goes to far, and Janie finds Nunkie and Tea Cake play wrestling in the cane fields. Janie becomes furious, and tries to hit Tea Cake that night, but her aggression turns to passion (they “play checkers”) that night. The next morning, her and Tea Cake joke about how foolish Nunkie is.

Chapter 16: Tea Cake is Too Black

The picking season ends, but Janie and Tea Cake decide to stay in the everglades during this time. Janie befriends a woman named Mrs. Turner, a black woman obsessed with white attributes. She pressures Janie to leave Tea Cake, who she deems too black, and to marry her light skinned cousin. Tea Cake disapproves of this, and asks Janie not to talk to Mrs. Turner anymore.

Chapter 17: Drunks Trash Mrs. Turner’s Resteraunt. Oh No.

The new season begins, and with it arrives Mrs. Turner’s brother. Tea Cake feels very threatened by this, and beats Janie to show he still controls her. Afterwards he pampers her, and she understands why he did what he did, and doesn’t hold it against him. Later in the chapter, two drunks trash Mrs. Turner’s restaurant, and afterward Mrs. Turner berates her husband for not chasing the scoundrels away.

Chapter 18: If the Indians Leave, Maybe That’s a Hint

In the opening of the chapter, Janie watches a group of Native Americans leaving towards Palm Beach, fearful of an approaching hurricane. Although they are offered a ride to higher ground, Tea Cake and Janie decide to stay at their home. As the storm breaks, Tea Cake, Janie, and “Motor Boat” are in Tea Cake’s house, but decide to flee for higher ground because of the intensity of the flooding. Motor Boat gets left behind, and Tea Cake and Janie struggle towards Palm Beach through the rising floodwaters. During this time, Janie is attacked by a rabid dog, which bites Tea Cake before he kills it. After the storm, they finally make it to shelter in Palm Beach.

Chapter 19: Janie Kills Tea Cake

In Palm Beach, Tea Cake is forced to do the grueling job of burying the dead at rifle point by the racist white townspeople. Janie and Tea Cake sneak away from Palm Beach, and back to the everglades, where they find that many of their friends have died, but many also lived (including Motor Boat, who slept through the storm in an abandoned house). The weeks go on and Tea Cake helps rebuild the dike around Lake Okeechobee, but one day he returns with a bad headache and strange symptoms. Janie sends for Dr. Simmons, who says he has an advanced stage of rabies, and that it may be too late. The doctor sends for medicine, but he doubts it will arrive in time. Tea Cake becomes delusional and paranoid, and Janie is very fearful because she finds a loaded pistol underneath his pillow. One day Tea Cake becomes enraged, takes out the pistol, and tries to shoot at Janie. Janie pulls out the rifle and shoots Tea Cake in self-defense. That same day, Janie is put on trial, and all of her old friends are suddenly turned against her, hateful towards her even though her actions where justified. Janie convinces the jury of her innocence however, through a powerful and emotional story of her love for her dead husband. The white men and women of the jury shield Janie as she leaves the courthouse. She then promptly gives Tea Cake a grand burial, a final farewell.

Chapter 20: Stupid Villagers

After the funereal, Tea Cake’s old friends feel guilty about blaming Janie, so they run Mrs. Turner’s brother out of town in compensation. Janie feels that the Everglades mean nothing without Tea Cake; she decides to go back to Eatonville. This is where Janie’s story to Phoebe ends, and Janie tells her that she doesn’t care what the villages think; they are narrow-minded, jealous, and ignorant people who have no lives. The story ends with Janie remembering the day she killed Tea Cake, and her finding peace with the situation.

Character Analysis

Phoebe(Ch1)

“Well nobody don’t know if its anything to tell or not…” Phoebe is a great friend to Janie, sticking up for her when nobody else does, always very loyal. But she is also internally very selfish and nosy, wanting Janie’s business first and for herself.

Phoebe acts as the sole audience for Janie’s life story, and intently pays attention to her friend’s tale late into the night and early into the next morning. She also plays a role through Janie’s narrative as Janie’s best friend, someone she could talk to and rely on. Overall, Phoebe was a loyal friend to Janie throughout the story.

Nanny(Ch2)

“Put me down easy, Janie, Ah’m a cracked plate” Nanny’s virtues are her devotion to her granddaughter, and how much she wants Janie to live a comfortable, secure life. What Nanny doesn’t see is that Janie is a different person, she is inherently reckless, fun, loving, and carefree. Nanny teaches the opposite values for life, which drags Janie down later on.

Nanny plays the role of the grandmother, basically. She is wholeheartedly concerned with Janie’s well-being and her future, so she arranges for Janie to have a secure lifestyle, and discourages Janie’s natural instincts to enjoy life with a carefree attitude.

Janie(Ch3)

“Cause you told me Ah mus gointer love him, and, and Ah don’t” Janie’s best attribute would have to be her understanding of human nature, knowing why people think the way they do, and not being judgmental about them. But Janie is also very carefree, and has a very impractical way of viewing some things.

Janie’s role in the novel is that of the protagonist and the narrator. The story is about her, and is being told by her as well. Janie’s grand dreams about the way life should be are the basis of her adventures, and her quest to find true love. She is the centerpiece, the focal point around which everyone in the story revolves.

Logan Killicks(Ch4)- “Ah’m too honest and hard-workin’ for anybody in yo’ family, dat’s de reason you don’t want me!” Logan is a very morally sound character, meaning he is hard working and fair. But he is also not very compassionate, and very blunt towards Janie.

Logan is Janie’s first husband, and he is a learning experience of sorts for her. She realizes that her Nanny may not have been right about love, and that you cant just grow to love someone. Logan also personified the security and structure of life that Janie did not have with Tea Cake, but which she sort of had with Joe Starks.

Joe Starks(Ch5)

“Ah’m buyin’ in here, and buyin’ in big” Joe is a big shot, with high aspirations and the mindset to make those things happen. He is industrious, charismatic, and compassionate at times. But Joe is also a very jealous man, as well as a man who cares more for his position and status than for his wife.

Joe Starks is a centerpiece in Janie’s life; she spends the better part of 20 years with him, as his wife. But while Joe is better than Logan, He still is not able to offer Janie the love and respect she desires, and he oppresses her to a point where she becomes a slave to his idea of a Mayors wife. His influence on her drives away her friends, the townspeople, as well as making her seem like a haughty, snooty woman to them.

Matt Bonner(Ch6)

“Ah dat mule’s plenty strong, jus’ evil and don’t wanna be led” Matts only virtue is probably his frugalness, which could easily argued as the opposite. On the other hand, he is somewhat dishonest, and doesn’t show any compassion towards his mule.

Matt Bonner doesn’t hold a central part in the story, but his character is used to bring in to light one of Joe Starks’ good attributes. When Joe buys Matt’s mule, he shows that he can be a compassionate person, and that below the grand attitude he is a decent man.

Sam Watson(Ch7)

“Ya’ll really playin’ de dozens tonight.” Sam shows his negative attribute when he taunts Joe Starks after Janie calls him out on his impotency. His comment demoralizes Joe, and strips him of his grandeur in a second.

Sam is another insignificant character, merely a townsman of Eatonville, but he participates in a key turning point during Their Eyes Were Watching God. His comment towards Janie and Joe add fuel to Joe’s rage about Janie’s jab at his manhood.

Death(Ch8)

“Death, that strange being with the huge square toes who lived way in the West. Janie gives Death a character in this chapter, and Death’s attributes are pretty apparent. Death is the Reaper of Souls, the Arbiter, The judgment referred to in the opening page of the book.

Death plays a huge role throughout the book, claiming the lives of people that Janie loves, like Nanny and Tea Cake. But Death also benefits Janie at certain points in the story. When Death came for Joe, It brought independence for Janie, something she had been without for 20 years.

Hezekiah(Ch9)

“Ah’m an educated man, Ah keep my arrangements in my hands.” Hezekiah is an honest young lad, trained by Joe. After Joe’s death, Hezekiah becomes Joe V2, helping Janie run the store and other similar tasks

Hezekiah is the delivery boy and assistant shopkeeper at Joe’s store. After Joe’s death, Hezekiah begins to mimic Joe’s affectations. Janie sees this, but she finds it harmless and disregards it

Tea Cake(Ch 10)

“People wouldn’t know me lak dey would you.” Tea Cake possesses the compassion, love, and respect that Janie has been searching for all her life. Although Tea Cake’s immune system isn’t good enough, and he still does get jealous and violent from time to time, he is an overall good character.

Tea Cake’s role in the story is the second largest, surpassed only by Janie. Tea Cake is everything Janie was searching for in a man, as well as the perfect companion for her in virtually every way. Tea Cake not only serves as a character, but as a symbol for Janie having reached her dreams, her boat sailing to the shore as the book refers to it in the opener.

Ms. Tyler(Ch12)

“…Ah sho would hate to see her end up lak Mis’ Tyler” A wealthy widow who lived in Eatonville, whose younger fiancé, Who Flung, took her money and fled at the first opportunity. Early in her marriage to Tea Cake, Janie fears that he will turn out to be like Who Flung and that she will end up like Annie Tyler.

Nunkie(Ch15)

“Ah b’lieve you been messin’ round her!” Nunkie is a girl in the Everglades who flirts relentlessly with Tea Cake. Janie grows extremely jealous of Nunkie, but after Tea Cake reassures her that Nunkie means nothing to him, Nunkie disappears from the novel.

Motor Boat(Ch18)

Motor Boat was one of Tea Cake and Janie’s friends in the Everglades. Motor Boat flees the hurricane with them and weathers the storm in an abandoned house.


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