Hurston's novel begins with Janie Crawford's
homecoming. The forty year old African- American woman returns alone to Eatonville at sundown, walking
silently past the townspeople watching her from their porches and passing
silent judgement. Nobody, however, "moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought
to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her" (2). Thus, Janie's
commanding presence makes itself immediately evident. For a more in-depth
look at Janie, please see the Character Profiles section. Once Janie enters
her house the locals begin gossiping about her -- wondering where her husband, Tea Cake, was, whether he has stolen her money, whether he has run
off with another woman.
Pheoby Watson defends her friend from the various fabrications, and walks
down the street to visit with and bring dinner to Janie. After Janie eats
she previews her upcoming story with the information that Tea Cake is dead.
Full of "that oldest human longing - self revelation," (6) Janie checks to
make sure Pheoby has got nothing else to do, then begins her story. This
chapter serves as a frame for the autobiography Janie proceeds to recollect throughout the following chapters of Their Eyes Were Watching God.