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By refering to the beginning of the novel, I am assuming that you mean the start of the story rather than the beginning of Janie's life, which of course is part of the middle section of the story when Janie begins to explain what has happened to her since she left. The story thus opens as Janie returns to her home town after having suffered a very traumatic experience. Note how she is referred to in the third paragraph of this incredible novel:
So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgement.
This clearly indicates the way that Janie begins the novel having just suffered a terrible tragedy of the loss, as we later find out, of her husband, in a shocking and sudden way. His death was not, as the quote explains, long expected and peaceful, but violent and shocking. Janie's situation as depicted at the beginning of this story thus is that of a widow who has experienced the terrible death of her husband. The rest of the novel explains the background of her life and how her husband died so tragically.
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