Study Guide

Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 17

By Zora Neale Hurston

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Chapter 17

  • Mrs. Turner brings her brother to meet Janie.
  • Tea Cake, of course, gets jealous. He beats Janie—not because she's done anything wrong, but to relieve the fear inside him and to show the Turners "who is boss." He may be feeling insecure, but this show of possession is just not cool, although the book seems to glorify it a little bit.
  • One of Tea Cake’s friends, Sop-de-Bottom, remarks how different Janie is from other women because she doesn’t fight back when beaten or yell. She only cries. This is attractive to Sop-de-Bottom (which is more than slightly creepy).
  • Tea Cake seems even more proud of his wife now and continues to justify his display of domestic violence, claiming that beating Janie is the best way to get Mrs. Turner to lay off.
  • Sop-de-Bottom assures Tea Cake that all of the workers will side with him against Mrs. Turner and they plan to drive her away.
  • On Saturday afternoon, the workers are paid, so naturally they go out and party.
  • Dick Sterrett and Coodemay, some of Tea Cake’s friends, get drunk and head over to Mrs. Turner’s eating house for dinner.
  • The little restaurant is packed, and there is no place to sit. When Coodemay’s order comes, he demands that Sop-de-Bottom give up his chair. Sop refuses, and a fight ensues.
  • Tea Cake intervenes. He accuses Coodemay of disrespecting Mrs. Turner and her restaurant, threatening to throw him out.
  • Dick Sterrett defends his friend. Soon, everyone in the place has taken sides.
  • The argument erupts into a full-blown brawl, and Mrs. Turner soon sees that Tea Cake’s noble efforts to defend her restaurant will cause more trouble than simply allowing the two drunkards to stay. She tries to tell Tea Cake so, but he insists on defending her honor.
  • The fight continues, and everything in the restaurant is destroyed.
  • Eventually, Coodemay admits he's wrong and offers to buy drinks for everyone. They all hightail it to another bar and leave Mrs. Turner in the ruins.
  • Mrs. Turner is enraged at the destruction. She takes it out on her husband, who did nothing to stop the fight.
  • Finally, Mrs. Turner decides to go back to Miami, "where folks is civilized."
  • Little does she know that her brother and son have been threatened by the workers and have already made tracks for Miami.
  • Tea Cake’s scheme went according to plan—he and Janie are now rid of Mrs. Turner.

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