CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Megan E. Ash | Go to book overview

Chapter 17

Summary

Before long, the seasonal workers on the muck begin returning, and Mrs. Turner’s brother arrives to chase after Janie, according to his sister’s plan. It is then that Tea Cake conceives a plan that involves slapping Janie. For him, slapping his wife is an assertion of his role as a husband, and it is a gesture that the other migrants, as well as Mrs. Turner, will understand. Janie has been hit before, however. Joe struck her more than once.

A fight breaks out at Mrs. Turner’s restaurant between several drunken migrant workers. Tea Cake joins the fight after he is unable to stop it. Mrs. Turner becomes angry with her husband because he failed to break up the brawl.


Commentary

Tea Cake begins to identify Janie as his possession. Because he feels threatened after Janie meets Mrs. Turner’s brother, he strikes his wife to reassure himself that Janie belongs to him and no one else. Tea Cake doesn’t believe that Janie did anything to deserve her beating; rather “it relieved that awful fear inside him.” Also, Tea Cake wants to send a message to the Turners that he is in control. He confides to Sop-de-Bottom that it is Mrs. Turner’s fault that he hit Janie because she sent her brother “tuh bait Janie in and take her away from me.” Beating Janie stems from Tea Cake’s need to control her, his jealousy, and the fear of losing his wife. Ironically, it is this type of control that caused Janie’s isolation from Joe. In the beginning of her relationship with Tea Cake, he represented freedom for Janie. Now, however, Tea Cake is exerting the same domination over Janie that Joe did.

It is possible that Tea Cake and his friends allowed the fight to escalate into a brawl at the restaurant. Mrs. Turner angered Tea Cake when she sent her brother to try to lure Janie away from Tea Cake. Perhaps

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CliffsNotes Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents iii
  • How to Use This Book vi
  • Life and Background of the Author 1
  • Introduction to the Novel 11
  • Critical Commentaries 19
  • Chapter 1 20
  • Chapter 2 24
  • Chapter 3 27
  • Chapter 4 29
  • Chapter 5 32
  • Chapter 6 36
  • Chapter 7 41
  • Chapter 8 43
  • Chapter 9 46
  • Chapter 10 48
  • Chapter 11 50
  • Chapter 12 52
  • Chapter 13 54
  • Chapter 14 57
  • Chapter 15 59
  • Chapter 16 60
  • Chapter 17 62
  • Chapter 18 64
  • Chapter 19 66
  • Chapter 20 69
  • Character Analyses 71
  • Critical Essays 81
  • CliffsNotes Review 89
  • CliffsNotes Resource Center 93
  • Index 95
  • Notes 101
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