Study Guide

Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 19

By Zora Neale Hurston

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Chapter 19

  • After resting for two days, Tea Cake decides it's time to go find some work. Janie warns him that there is no work to be had except being enlisted by the white men to bury the dead from the hurricane.
  • Tea Cake decides to try his luck anyway, reasoning that if he has money in his pockets, the white men will leave him alone.
  • He’s wrong. The first two white men he encounters force him to help out with the messy job that Janie described.
  • Many black workers are doing the same thing—dumping any human bodies they find into a deep ditch.
  • Soon, however, the orders change. The workers are to separate the white corpses from the black because the white ones will have coffins made for them and the black corpses won’t.
  • After several hours of this toil, Tea Cake realizes Janie will probably be worrying about him. So, he runs away, even after being threatened with guns.
  • At home, he finds Janie weeping. He consoles her and convinces her to leave Palm Beach with him.
  • They return to the Everglades. Tea Cake discovers some of his friends—Sop-de-Bottom, Stew Beef, Dockery, ‘lias, Coodemay, Bootyny, and Motor Boat—alive.
  • Motor Boat was particularly lucky. When Tea Cake and Janie split ways with him, Motor Boat fell asleep on the top floor of an abandoned house. His whole building was swept away by the flood, but the storm never touched him.
  • Tea Cake finds work in the Everglades, helping to rebuild what the hurricane destroyed.
  • At home, Janie continues practicing her shooting.
  • In the fourth week, Tea Cake starts exhibiting signs of sickness. He asks for food, then when Janie brings it to him, refuses to eat it. Then, he asks for some water but gags it up.
  • Janie, alarmed, calls in a white doctor and has Tea Cake diagnosed. She tells the doctor the story of their escape from the hurricane, including the episode with the cow and dog.
  • The doctor prescribes some pills and then pulls Janie out to talk to her privately.
  • He reveals that Tea Cake has been bitten by a mad dog (in other words, one with rabies) and that Tea Cake’s inability to drink water is one sure symptom.

(Click the summary infographic to download.)

  • He warns Janie to stay away from Tea Cake, especially when he has one of his choking fits, because she could get bitten and be infected by the same disease. Tea Cake has a very slim chance of living.
  • The doctor assures Janie that he'll send for the antidote serum from the city but warns her that Tea Cake should have taken it weeks ago. It probably won’t help much now.
  • Janie clings to hope.
  • Meanwhile, Tea Cake still thinks seeing a doctor is unnecessary. He says he only gags on water because Janie has been giving him dirty water. When he pumps his own water and has the same reaction, he becomes embarrassed; he doesn’t want Janie to see him in such a weak state.
  • When Janie leaves home to see about the medicine, she does it in secret because she doesn’t want Tea Cake to worry.
  • Janie runs into Sop-de-Bottom and Dockery. She asks them to go sit with Tea Cake while she is gone and keep him company. They comply.
  • When Janie returns home, Tea Cake has become madly jealous because Sop has told him that Mrs. Turner’s brother is back in town and has the same sickness as Tea Cake. Tea Cake takes this to mean that Janie has been visiting with Mrs. Turner’s brother.
  • When Janie tells him the truth (that she's gone to check on the medicine), he breaks down, crying in her arms.
  • She reassures him of her love, but while she is putting him to bed, she feels the cold steel of a pistol underneath his pillow. She says nothing because he hasn’t brought it up himself.
  • She realizes that the dog of pure hate has killed her after all, but not directly. He's killing her slowly and painfully through Tea Cake’s suffering. She asks God for help, but her prayers remain unanswered.
  • That night, Tea Cake suffers two choking attacks and continues being unaccountably suspicious of Janie. He won't let her out of his sight, even to get the doctor.
  • Janie is frightened by Tea Cake’s odd behavior, so while he’s in the outhouse, she sets the pistol underneath his pillow so that it will snap three times before actually firing. She hopes she's wrong in fearing that Tea Cake will turn the pistol on her...but she wants to err on the side of safety.
  • Tea Cake returns with a strange loping stride and his jaws set strangely.
  • His natural jealousy is being amplified by the disease. He asks Janie coldly why she no longer sleeps in the same bed as him. She reminds him that the doctor prescribed it. But he's beyond reason.
  • Tea Cake thinks that Janie is fooling around with Mrs. Turner’s brother, and he turns the pistol on her.
  • As the three clicks come and go, Janie whips out a rifle to protect herself.
  • Janie recognizes that Tea Cake is no longer Tea Cake; her husband has been taken over by the fiendish disease that urges him to kill anything in sight.
  • Janie shoots an instant before Tea Cake does. He misses. She doesn’t.
  • Tea Cake dies in her arms, still hateful and biting down on Janie’s forearm. She weeps over his body and silently thanks him for giving her the chance to love.
  • The same day, Janie is put on trial for killing Tea Cake.
  • The entire black community is set against her; they feel like she has betrayed Tea Cake. Ironically, the white women in the audience sympathize with Janie.
  • Dr. Simmons, who treated Tea Cake, testifies on Janie’s behalf.
  • A man named Mr. Prescott testifies against Janie, saying that Tea Cake always treated her well and that she left Tea Cake for another man while her husband was sick. Hardly the truth of the situation.
  • When Janie gives her testimony, she makes a point of telling the truth as she knows it and not pleading to anybody.
  • The verdict is in Janie’s favor so she goes free.
  • The white women supportively surround Janie while her black peers leave with their heads hanging.
  • As she leaves, Janie overhears a couple of men saying she only went free because she killed a black man, not a white one.
  • Janie arranges an elaborate funeral for Tea Cake, whom she has come to idealize as the "son of the Evening Sun."
  • She is so distraught that she doesn’t care about her appearance; rather than wearing black for mourning, she wears her overalls.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...