Hurston's novel begins with Janie Crawford's homecoming. The forty year old African- American woman returns alone to Eatonville at sundown, walking silently past the townspeople watching her from their porches and passing silent judgement. Nobody, however, "moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her" (2). Thus, Janie's commanding presence makes itself immediately evident. For a more in-depth look at Janie, please see the Character Profiles section. Once Janie enters her house the locals begin gossiping about her -- wondering where her husband, Tea Cake, was, whether he has stolen her money, whether he has run off with another woman.
Pheoby Watson defends her friend from the various fabrications, and walks down the street to visit with and bring dinner to Janie. After Janie eats she previews her upcoming story with the information that Tea Cake is dead. Full of "that oldest human longing - self revelation," (6) Janie checks to make sure Pheoby has got nothing else to do, then begins her story. This chapter serves as a frame for the autobiography Janie proceeds to recollect throughout the following chapters of Their Eyes Were Watching God.