Their Eyes Were Watching God

Janie trudges home in a pair of overalls, causing the porch-dwellers’ tongues to wag, how she’d left town all high and mighty with Tea Cake (to marry him), and now she was loping back home alone. Did she retain her money, or had Tea Cake taken that, too? Janie’s friend Pheoby brings her dinner and they sit in the gathering darkness while Janie tells her story. Thrice-married, once to an old man at her grandmother’s insistence to protect her purity, then she ran away from him to marry Joe/Jody who sets out to become mayor of the all-black town and accumulates a fortune, finally to Tea Cake after Joe dies. Tea Cake is the love of her life, “God made it so you spent yo’ ole age first wid somebody else, and saved up yo’ young girl days to spend wid me.” They head to the Everglades to plant and pick beans, gamble, hunt, and have a grand old time. Along comes a hurricane (they watch Indians file east en masse as they flee ahead of the storm, then all the animals make the same hasty retreat). Tea Cake saves Janie from a mad dog perched on a floating cow in the aftermath, he gets bit and a month later dies from her shotgun blast since he’s gone mad and tried to kill/bite her. Tremendous imagery post-hurricane, brought to mind Hurricane Katrina. Pressed into service to bury the dead, the workers were told to bury the whites in coffins and toss the blacks in an open grave covered with quick-lime. When the workers protested that they weren’t sure which race the bodies were, the white men conferred and agreed that they must look at the hair to make a determination. Enjoyable early black feminist work once I got over my aversion to reading dialect.