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 Their Eyes Were Watching God Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Novel Summary: Chapter 19

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The action-packed nineteenth chapter begins with Tea Cake being forced by two white men to help bury people killed by the hurricane's damage. Racial inequality is evident as workers are supposed to determine whether the dead are black or white - there are coffins available for the whites, but not for the blacks. Tea Cake, angry at his treatment and the inequality, immediately moves with Janie back to the Everglades. Everything seems back to normal, as Tea Cake works to buy two more guns for he and Janie to practice shooting with. 

Several weeks later, however, Tea Cake becomes violently ill, waking up in the middle of the night struggling with an imaginary enemy at his throat. The following day Janie discovers Tea Cake cannot drink a sip of water because it chokes him. A doctor visits and informs them that he believes it was a mad dog who bit Tea Cake. The doctor admits that death is inevitable, but fears that Tea Cake's "liable tuh suffer somethin' awful befo' he goes" (168). After Janie refuses to put her husband in a hospital, the doctor warns her to be wary and to not sleep with Tea Cake. As Janie takes care of Tea Cake while he becomes sicker and sicker she finds he has begun sleeping with a loaded pistol under the pillow. To make matters worse, Mrs. Turner's brother is back in town, causing Tea Cake to become jealous in addition to crazy. 

The novel's climax occurs one morning when Tea Cake approaches Janie like a mad dog, "with a queer loping gait, swinging his head from side to side and his jaws clenched in a funny way" (174). As Tea Cake demands to know why Janie hasn't been sleeping in the same bed with him, he threatens her with his pistol (which Janie has previously manipulated to ensure the first three chambers are empty). Tea Cake pulls the trigger three times before Janie shoots her husband with a rifle as he simultaneously fires his first bullet, which just misses Janie. Tea Cake falls forward and tries to bite Janie's forearm like a mad dog just before he dies. 

Janie goes to jail for three hours after authorities discover she killed Tea Cake. Quickly, however, an all-white jury is assembled and Janie stands trial for murder. The African-Americans, Janie's old friends on the muck, stand in the back of the courtroom demanding a guilty verdict for the killer of their friend Tea Cake. The doctor who examined Tea Cake's illness testifies, then Janie testifies in her own defense. The jury finds her not guilty. Set free, Janie returns to Palm Beach to bury Tea Cake. At this funeral, unlike during Joe Starks' ceremony, Janie wears no veils or robes. Instead, she "went on in her overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief" (180). 




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