Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 20 | Summary



After Tea Cake's funeral, the migrant workers protect Janie from Mrs. Turner's brother by running him out of town. They want Janie to stay in the Everglades, but she misses Tea Cake too much to live there without him. She decides to return to Eatonville but first gives away their possessions, keeping only one thing—a package of seeds Tea Cake had meant to plant. She decides to plant the seeds in his memory.

Janie finishes telling her story to Pheoby, saying she has "been tuh de horizon and back." She is content to be back home and will spend the rest of her days thinking about Tea Cake. Despite the tragic events she has endured, she finds peace in the thought that Tea Cake would live in her heart "until she herself had finished feeling and thinking."


Hurston concludes Janie's narrative, the story within a story. There is a transition from Janie's telling the story of her life to the present time where Janie is speaking with Pheoby after returning to Eatonville. Although the reader learns about what happens in Janie's life over the span of 40 years, only a few hours have gone by.

Hurston returns to the symbol of the horizon in the concluding paragraph, forming a symbolic frame for the narrative, as it had been introduced in the first paragraph. At the book's end, Hurston says that Janie "pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net" and then comments on how full that net is. Janie has satisfied her desire for love and adventure and can now live the rest of her life with the rich experiences she has captured.

The final chapter suggests all the novel's major themes: judgment, love, and independence. Janie recalls that the African Americans in the Everglades judged her severely but eventually came around to accept and protect her. The reader learns that Janie finds peace through her memories of her marriage to Tea Cake. Janie's act of saving the seeds he had also suggests the pear tree symbol so important in the book. Here the seeds not only represent their love, but they also signify life and growth. The plants these seeds produce will be a physical reminder of the love she shared with Tea Cake.

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