Their Eyes Were Watching God Readalong, part 3

Today we’re finishing up a readalong, hosted by The Heroine’s Bookshelf, of Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’m discussing chapters 14-20 (please pop over to THB at the above link to join in). We recently discussed chapters 1-6 and chapters 7-13. Caution: spoilers follow.

A lot happened in the final third of the book! Janie and Tea Cake settled, at the end of part 2, in southern Florida, and many of us readers were concerned with Tea Cake’s reliability. Would he make a good man for Janie? Well, we see them continue to establish a life together, and Tea Cake did turn out to be a good man for Janie – at least in Janie’s eyes. I’m sure I’m not alone in being unhappy with him for being jealous, for flirting with Nunkie, and finally, for beating Janie. But she continues in her opinion that he’s perfectly wonderful, and I do see the good: he brought her a sense of adventure, a sense of community, someone and something to work for and feel good about. I guess I can’t begrudge her the happiness she found. Although the idea that Janie getting beat up “aroused a sort of envy in both men and women” is not one I appreciate.

And then the hurricane! My, but that was some action. Tea Cake and Janie choose to wait out the storm – in their little cabin right on Lake Okechobee – despite the animals and the Indians wisely taking off for higher ground. Their flight from the path of the storm – “de lake is comin’!” – is high drama. And it’s nice that almost none of Janie & Tea Cake’s friends lose their lives. I enjoyed this part quite a bit.

But the tragic ending… I recall that I wasn’t the only one concerned, from the beginning, that Tea Cake “left” Janie. But I guess we didn’t guess how he’d leave. That was high drama, too; I was moved by the courtroom scene, the insinuations that the jury was moved by Janie’s beauty, the insinuations of racism, and finally the transition from indignation to shame and apologetic acceptance on the part of Janie’s community. Tea Cake died as a result of saving Janie during the storm. I guess I have to retract some of my concern. Although beating her was still uncool.

The final scene wraps up Janie & Pheoby’s conversation, in some beautiful language. “Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” Lovely.

I enjoyed this read, and I look forward to joining in the discussion (THB) today.

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