As the years pass, Janie grows more and more defeated. She silently submits to Jody’s imperious nature and performs her duties while ignoring her emotions. She considers running away but doubts that she can find refuge anywhere, feeling that she has grown unattractive. She feels her spirit detach from her body; she watches herself work at the store and submit to Jody while her mind is really elsewhere. This detachment allows her to accept stoically a life that she has grown to hate.
One day, Janie notices that Jody has begun to look quite old. He has trouble moving around and his body bulges and sags. Jody, too, seems aware of this physical change, and he pesters Janie about her age and appearance, attempting to get her to worry about her own appearance and ignore his. But Janie sees through his ploy. She realizes how ugly and old he feels.
Jody keeps deteriorating and, as a result, his verbal attacks become more vicious and frequent. One day, Janie makes a clumsy mistake while cutting a plug of tobacco for a customer. Jody begins berating her in front of the store crowd, not only mocking her incompetence but also insulting her looks. Janie finally releases her pent-up aggression. She insults his sagging body and declares that he looks like “de change uh life” when naked. The force of the insult stuns the men on the porch. Jody feels impotent, his reputation in the town diminished and his power vanishing. He lashes out in a blind rage, fiercely hitting Janie and driving her from the store.
After the confrontation, Jody moves into another room in the house. His health keeps deteriorating and he grows desperate, consulting with quacks who promise miracle cures. He avoids contact with Janie and stops eating her cooking. Janie learns from Pheoby that there is a rumor around town that Janie is trying to poison Jody for revenge. Nevertheless, Janie sends for a real doctor from Orlando. The doctor examines Jody and determines that his kidneys have stopped working and that he will soon die.
Janie begins to pity Jody and wants to see him one last time. Jody refuses, but Janie decides that it will soon be too late, so she enters his room. He is cold and distant, and their conversation quickly deteriorates into an argument. He says that she never appreciated all that he did for her; she responds that he never let her express her emotions. She then tells him that he is dying and Jody finally realizes the truth. He breaks down, releases one long, anguished sob, and begs Janie not to tell him such things. Nevertheless, she berates him, accusing him of tyranny and egotism. She adds that he was always trying to change her and was never satisfied with who she really was.
Jody pleads with Janie to stop but she continues. She sees that he is struggling with death and is filled with pity. He dies, and she thinks about all the time that has passed since she met him. She looks in a mirror and sees that she has aged but is still beautiful. She rips off her head-rag, freeing her imprisoned hair, but then realizes that she must appear to be mourning. She ties it back up, assumes a mask of sadness, and yells out the window that Jody has died.