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Free Study Guide-Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston-Free
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Chapters 18 - 19

Summary (continued)

Janie and Tea Cake argue about what to do and where to go. He wants to check on the safety of his friends and find work, but Janie is afraid that if he goes out he will be pressed into the service of burying the dead. When he goes to survey the destruction, some white men come along and force him to search for the dead and bury them. The dead are everywhere, and their eyes reveal that they died "trying to see beyond seeing." The people who are directing the operation want the bodies separated, white from black. The whites get pine boxes, and the blacks are thrown in an open ditch. All the bodies need to be buried in a hurry, for they are already decomposing. Some cannot be distinguished as white or black. Tea Cake eventually escapes this ritual. As he runs away, they shout that they will shoot him if he does not stop and help. He manages to get back to Janie and tells her he wants to get back to the muck. She reminds him that the hurricane hit there too; but they both agree that the white folks d own there know them and will give them a chance, unlike the white folks here who do not know them.

On the muck, Janie and Tea Cake find a house that can be repaired. They also find a good number of their friends, including Motor Boat, who floated in the abandoned house until the storm was over. Tea Cake finds plenty of work cleaning up the area. After about three weeks, he comes home sick from work; he wants to eat, but cannot get anything down. He thrashes in bed, having terrible nightmares. He asks her for water and then throws it violently away. Janie insists upon getting the doctor. When Janie and the doctor arrive, he examines Tea Cake. He then tells Janie that her husband has an advanced case of rabies. If they had called him sooner, Tea Cake might have been saved, but now he is doomed to suffer an awful death.

Janie will do anything she can to save Tea Cake. She tells the doctor that she has plenty of money and can pay for any care. The doctor says he will phone for medicine, but it probably will not help. As Janie assesses the situation, she realizes that Tea Cake is dying because he loved her and saved her. Janie asks God why this had to happen to her and Tea Cake. As her heart is breaking, she thinks that the angry dog has, in fact, killed both Tea Cake and herself.

Tea Cake does not understand what is happening to him, and he does not want to worry Janie. He tries to drink, but fails. Janie gets some people to watch him while she runs to find the doctor and a car to go get the medicine. She learns that it must come from Miami. All she can do is go home and wait. When she arrives, someone has told Tea Cake that Mrs. Turner's brother is on the muck again, and Tea Cake is sure he has been cursed. He accuses Janie; she explains her feelings and tries to comfort him. They spend a few minutes assuring each other of their devotion, but when Janie gets Tea Cake back in bed, she finds his pistol under his pillow.


During the night, Tea Cake grows worse. Janie wants to go for the doctor, but Tea Cake does not want her to leave. He growls at her, out of his mind with the rabies. When he goes to the outhouse, Janie checks the pistol's chambers and finds three bullets and three empty chambers. She arranges the pistol so that Tea Cake would not be able to shoot anything at the first three pulls of the trigger. If he should fire at her, she should have time to get away. She puts a bullet in the rifle and hides it behind the stove; she then empties the box of pistol cartridges.

Tea Cake comes back from the outhouse, swinging his head oddly. He falls into bed and sleeps. When he awakes, he accuses Janie of avoiding him. She tries to get him back in bed with promises of new medicine, but he takes the pistol and aims it at her, telling her to answer his questions. He tries the trigger. Janie grabs the rifle and points it at him, telling him to put down the pistol and wait for the doctor. He has the same ferocious, mad look in his eyes that the dog had. He tries twice more to shoot Janie. With his first real shot, Janie also fires at him. His bullet misses, but hers hits Tea Cake. He falls forward, burying his teeth in her arm. After she pries his teeth off, she holds him while he dies. She weeps and thanks him wordlessly for "giving her the chance of loving."

Janie is thrown in jail for murder; she will be tried by a white judge and jury. Fortunately, the doctor comes to her defense. He tells the judge and sheriff what has happened. The trial starts the same day. The Negroes who have gathered in the courtroom want a chance to testify against Janie. They do not understand what has happened; they cannot believe that she killed Tea Cake, who was so good to her. The doctor gets up and explains the history of events, how Janie has called for him to care for her husband. He tells how he returned with the medicine and found Janie all bit up and holding Tea Cake on the floor, with both guns beside her. The judge wants to finish up the trial, but one of Tea Cake's friends wants to speak. The judge hushes him and calls Janie to testify. She tells them all about Tea Cake and herself and their devotion to each other. She explains how he went mad and did not know what he was doing. She tells about him firing the pistol at her before she used the rifle. She does not beg or plead; she simply tells the facts.

A lawyer tells her to come down from the stand. He then he addresses the jury. They must decide if she is a caring wife or a cold murderess. Janie worries that the jury will misunderstand her. It does not take long, however, for them to come back and say that Janie is innocent.

Janie goes to stay in a boarding house. The next day she hears some men talking about how no white jury would ever hang a woman who looks like her; the men believe she could keep killing black men and no one would care. One man claims that a white man and a Negro woman are the freest beings on earth. Janie tries to ignore this discussion.

Janie busies herself planning an impressive funeral; nothing is too good for her Tea Cake, son of the Evening Sun. He is to be buried with a new guitar and roses in a vault in West Palm Beach. Janie invites Tea Cake's friends to come to the funeral. They arrive and ask her forgiveness for their behavior at the trial. Janie understands that they were just upset over losing Tea Cake. She hires ten cars, and they all go out to Tea Cake's entombment. Janie is wearing overalls. "She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief."

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