Study Guide

Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 8

By Zora Neale Hurston

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Chapter 8

  • After that, Joe moves into the room downstairs, and he and Janie hardly talk to each other.
  • Janie doesn’t want to apologize to Joe for belittling him once since he’s been belittling her for the duration of their whole, long marriage.
  • Still, Janie notices that Joe really is getting old. He’s saggy and baggy all over.
  • Unbeknownst to Janie, Joe wants to regain his manliness in her eyes and, in desperation, consults with charlatan herbalists ("root doctors"), trying to find a cure.
  • Janie also discovers that Joe isn’t eating her cooking anymore. He’s having an old lady, who’s a far worse cook than Janie, make his meals. This really hurts Janie.
  • Janie, who at some level still loves Joe, sobs out her sorrows to her best friend, Pheoby. (This is the first mention of Pheoby within the frame of Janie’s narration.) Janie doesn’t want Joe to think ill of her. She feels like she’s killing Joe.
  • Pheoby advises her to just bear it. There’s nothing Janie can do to take back what she said about his manhood in the store, and it’s far too late to get a divorce.
  • Joe continues to get weaker but won’t see a real doctor, only the "root doctor." He takes to his bed and gets tons of visitors who pay no attention to Janie. Furthermore, Joe’s newfound friends report to the sick mayor about his wife and how incompetent she is in the store.
  • In desperation, Janie calls in a real doctor from Orlando to diagnose Joe. He tells her that Joe’s kidneys have failed and it’s just a matter of time before Joe dies.
  • Janie doesn’t want Joe to die alone, but Joe refuses to see her.
  • Janie works up her nerve to confront Joe. She gives him a piece of her mind, telling him that he never gave her the chance to show him her love.
  • She tells him that he’s dying, which terrifies him. He doesn’t want to confront the truth.
  • Janie points out that if he'd listened to her before and had seen a doctor, he wouldn’t be dying right now. He never listened to her and never knew her during their 20 years of marriage.
  • Enraged, Joe wishes death upon her.
  • Janie confesses that he’s not the man she ran away with. All she wanted was to make a home for him, but he was too ambitious and demanded her submission. Janie says Joe never let her show him her love because he was too wrapped up in listening to his "own big voice."
  • Joe dies trying to rebuke her.
  • Janie contemplates his face in death and feels pity for him.
  • Then, she thinks about herself. She goes to the mirror and lets down her hair. Her youth is gone, but she’s still a beautiful woman. Janie isn't destroyed by Joe’s death; rather, we get the feeling that she can finally get on with her life.
  • The chapter ends with Janie announcing out of the window that Joe has died.

(Click the summary infographic to download.)

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