Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 15 | Summary



Janie feels jealous of Nunkie, a bean picker who flirts with Tea Cake. One day Janie realizes that Nunkie and Tea Cake have disappeared. She asks Sop-de-Bottom where they are and then follows them into the cane field. Janie confronts them and demands to know what they are doing all alone there. According to Tea Cake, Nunkie took his work tickets, and he tried to grab them back. Janie goes after Nunkie, but the girl runs away.

When Tea Cake tries to talk to Janie about what happened, she hits him, and the couple gets into a violent fight. Their fighting turns into passionate lovemaking. The next morning, Janie seeks Tea Cake's assurance that he doesn't love Nunkie. He vehemently denies he ever loved the girl and tells Janie that she, Janie, is the kind of women "tuh make uh man forgit tuh git old."


Hurston further explores the maturing relationship between Tea Cake and Janie, and she returns to an important aspect of the theme of love—jealousy. Janie did not love Logan Killicks and Joe Starks the way she loves Tea Cake, so this is a new emotion for her. She doesn't quite know how to deal with her feelings, which are couched in terms that recall the symbol of the pear tree. Her jealousy is a "little seed ... growing into a tree." Although Tea Cake manages to reassure Janie of his fidelity, this chapter reveals that Janie can still feel vulnerable and insecure. She does not want to lose Tea Cake to another woman, now that she has finally found a man she loves deeply.

In Chapter 15 Janie does something unexpected. Fueled by jealousy, she hits Tea Cake. What is surprising about her violent response is that she herself has been a victim of domestic violence and speaks out against it in Chapter 6. The attack reflects the culture of the time, the depth of Janie's emotional attachment to Tea Cake, and the intensity of the pain caused by her fear of losing him.

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