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It was not death she feared. It was misunderstanding. If they made a verdict that she didn’t want Tea Cake and wanted him dead, then that was a real sin and a shame. It was worse than murder. (19.174)
To Janie, death is a more merciful sentence than having her words twisted and misunderstood. The idea that she would actually hate Tea Cake enough to kill him is a blatant lie and Janie hates falsehoods more than she hates death. To Janie, honest words are the ultimate virtue.
[Janie to Pheoby]: "Dem meatskins [the gossipers on the porch] is got tuh rattle tuh make out they’s alive. Let ‘em consulate theyselves wid talk. ‘Course, talkin’ don’t amount tuh uh hill uh beans when yuh can’t do nothin’ else. And listenin’ tuh dat kind uh talk is jus’ lak openin’ yo’ mouth and lettin’ de moon shine down yo’ throat. It’s uh known fact Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh know there. Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves." (20.9)
Janie highlights the crucial difference between talk and action. She characterizes the gossipers on the porch as petty because they live vicariously through talking, never having the guts to strike out for themselves and try living what they talk about.
The day of the gun, and the bloody body, and the courthouse came and commenced to sing a sobbing sigh out of every corner in the room; out of each and every chair and thing. Commenced to sing, commenced to sob and sigh, singing and sobbing. Then Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top of the pine trees. (20.12)
Janie’s memories are depicted as having voices, able to "sing," "sob and sigh." Their vocalizations are expressions of poignant grief, lamentations that are beautifully sung, then reduced to less controlled outpourings of sobbing and sighing. This personification of Janie’s memories accentuates her deep sadness for Tea Cake, a sadness which is beyond words.