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Free Study Guide-Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston-Free
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Chapters 18-19

Summary

Tea Cake and Janie become friends with some Bahamian workers, who have their evenings of fire-dancing behind Tea Cake's house. Tea Cake insists that Janie rest after these nights, so she is alone at home when she sees groups of Seminole Indians go by; they say there is going to be a big hurricane, so they are moving to higher ground. The workers on the muck pay no attention to the Indians' warning. The next day rabbits, possums, and snakes are seen leaving the muck; at night many larger animals leave. Some people take notice and pack up; they are concerned that the dike on the lake may break in a bad storm. One of the Bahamians offers Tea Cake and Janie a ride out, but Tea Cake says they will stay. That evening, the usual crowd gathers in Tea Cake's yard to eat, dance, and tell stories about Big John de Conquer, who could do amazingly fantastic feats. As they gamble and dance, someone notices that the weather is growing worse.

The big winds vibrate like a giant drum, lightening brightens the sky, and thunder rolls. Tea Cake, Janie, and their friend Motor hear terrible crashings and screamings; they look at the door of the house, questioning God. Tea Cake asks Janie if she is now thinking that she should have stayed in her own house in Eatonville, but she assures him that her place is with her husband. He puts his head in her lap, well pleased. As they watch and wait, the winds pick up. "They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God."

Tea Cake looks out and sees destruction and rising water. He tells Janie to get their things together so they can attempt an escape. Janie gathers their things in an old oilcloth. Tea Cake goes out, but cannot find a car. He and Janie go and wake up Motor Boat; the three of them hold arms and try to walk out. The dike breaks, and a wall of water and mud advances on the shanties, destroying anything in its path. Everyone runs for higher ground. Janie, Tea Cake, and Motor make it to a higher house, where they sleep. Janie wakes up to see the water rising. She wakes Tea Cake and they head for still higher ground. Motor decides to stay behind.


Tea Cake and Janie have to swim. Since Janie is not a strong swimmer, Tea Cake has to help her. Although they are exhausted, especially Tea Cake, they know they must make it to the six-mile bridge. When they arrive, white people have taken over the bridge and send them on their way. As they travel slowly onward, they see dead mean and animals, people stranded in trees, and snakes moving everywhere. The water is full of things, both dead and alive. Tea Cake rests for a moment and falls asleep. Janie grabs a piece of tar-paper roofing so she can cover her sleeping husband, but the wind catches it and pulls her out over the water. When she screams, Tea Cake wakes. He tells her to swim for a cow that is also struggling in the current. The cow has a dog on its back, but Janie manages to grab hold. The cow struggles with Janie's extra weight, and the dog growls at and then attacks Janie. She slips off just as Tea Cake arrives. He grabs the dog and tries to drown it. The dog bites him on the cheek befo re he can destroy it. Janie and the cow have reached land by the time Tea Cake struggles in. Janie makes a fuss over the bite, but Tea Cake is simply glad the dog did not damage his eye.

By the next Janie and Tea Cake struggle into Palm Beach, their bodies ravaged. The town is in pure havoc, and it is difficult to find a place to rest. Again, Tea Cake questions whether Janie should have ever come with him, and she assures him that she is right where she needs to be. Janie reminds Tea Cake that he saved her life.

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