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"Shucks! Nobody can’t tell nothin’ ‘bout some uh dese bodies, de shape dey’s in. Can’t tell whether dey’s white or black." (19.30)
Death is a great equalizer in another, more ghastly way. It mangles the corpses’ bodies so that they are unrecognizable; even their skin color is imperceptible. Though Death tries to show the living that everyone is equal, the living insist on imposing meaningless standards – such as skin color and social status – on the senseless corpses.
[Janie]: "You mean he’s liable tuh die, doctah?"
[Doctor Simmons]: "’Sho is. But de worst thing is he’s liable tuh suffer somethin’ awful befo’ he goes." (19.96-97)
This is the second husband that Janie will lose to death. Both Joe and Tea Cake should have been sought medical treatment before their illnesses reached a critical stage, but both were too proud to do so. In the end, such reckless behavior not only kills them, but forces them and their loving wife (Janie) to "suffer somethin’ awful" before they die. Sadly, both deaths were utterly preventable.
Tea Cake had two bad attacks that night. Janie saw a changing look come in his face. Tea Cake was gone. Something else was looking out of his face. She made up her mind to be off after the doctor with the first glow of day. So she was up and dressed when Tea Cake awoke from the fitful sleep that had come to him just before day. He almost snarled when he saw her dressed to go. (19.136)
Tea Cake effectively dies that night because his lovable, compassionate self is replaced by something foreign and bestial that snarls at Janie with unnatural jealousy and irrational hate. Tea Cake has become the mad dog, crazed with bloodlust and no longer anything remotely human.