Hurston begins the novel with heavy foreshadowing as Janie returns to Eatonville, and promises to tell Pheoby the entire story of all that she has seen and done since she left. This framing device creates a strong sense of anticipation for answers to the questions of who Janie is, where she has returned from, and why her return is so momentous as to be gossiped about by her neighbors.
Jody does not want an equal partner in marriage, and this desire is foreshadowed in his first meeting with Janie in which he calls her “a pretty doll-baby” who is “made to sit on the front porch and rock and fan yo’self.” Janie falls for the sweet-talk and Jody helps her escape Logan’s household, but she lands in another miserable situation in which she has no autonomy. Janie tries to be the delicate wife that Jody says he wants, but fails because her need for self-discovery and independence is far too great. Jody’s inability to fulfill Janie’s dream of a perfect, harmonious romance is also foreshadowed in their first day together as man and wife, in which he “didn’t make many speeches with rhymes to her.” Janie’s continuous frustration with Jody foreshadows the eventual freedom she will feel upon his death. After his burial, “She would have the rest of her life to do as she pleased.”
In the first chapter, Janie tells Pheoby that Tea Cake is gone, and “dat’s de only reason” she has come back to Eatonville, foreshadowing that Tea Cake is a significant character who will die in the story. After Tea Cake and Janie marry, he is grievously wounded in a fight after a game of dice he played to win Janie’s money back. This beating foreshadows Tea Cake’s eventual demise from rabies after rescuing Janie during the hurricane. In both circumstances, Tea Cake’s self-sacrificing acts cause a surge of passion in Janie. After the first fight, Janie feels “a self-crushing love” for her husband, and after the death of rabid Tea Cake, Janie “held his head tightly to her breast and wept and thanked him wordlessly.”