Janie Mae Crawford
The protagonist of the novel. Janie defies categorization:
she is black but flaunts her Caucasian-like straight hair, which
comes from her mixed ancestry; she is a woman but defies gender
stereotypes by insisting on her independence and wearing overalls. Behind
her defiance are a curiosity and confidence that drive her to experience
the world and become conscious of her relation to it. Part of Janie’s
maturity rests in her ability to realize that others’ cruelty toward
her or their inability to understand her stems not from malice but
from their upbringing or limited perspective.
third husband and first real love. Twelve years younger than Janie,
Tea Cake impresses her with his quick wit and zest for living. But
behind the flash, he has a real affection for, and understanding
of, Janie. He doesn’t try to force Janie to be anything other than herself,
and he treats her with respect. He is not without faults, however;
he does steal from her once and beat her. These reprehensible incidents,
though, make him a more real character than one who possesses only
idealized positive qualities.
in-depth analysis of Tea Cake.
second husband. Jody, as Janie calls him, travels from Georgia to
Eatonville to satisfy his ambition and hunger for power. A consummate
politician and businessman, he becomes the postmaster, mayor, storekeeper,
and biggest landlord in Eatonville. But he treats Janie as an object
rather than a person, and their marriage deteriorates.
in-depth analysis of Jody Starks.
Janie’s first husband. Nanny arranges Janie’s marriage
to Logan because she values financial security and respectability
over love. Logan pampers Janie for a year before he tries to make
her help him with the farming work. Feeling used and unloved, Janie
leaves him for Jody Starks.
best friend in Eatonville. Pheoby gives Janie the benefit of the
doubt when the townspeople gossip viciously about Janie. She is
the audience for Janie’s story and her presence is occasionally
felt in the colloquial speech that the narrator mixes in with a more
sophisticated narrative style.
Janie’s grandmother. Nanny’s experience as a slave
stamped her worldview with a strong concern for financial security,
respectability, and upward mobility. These values clash with Janie’s
independence and desire to experience the world, though Janie comes
to respect Nanny’s values and decisions as well intended.
Mr. and Mrs. Turner
Everglades residents who run a small restaurant.
Mrs. Turner prides herself on her Caucasian features and disdains
anyone with a more African appearance. She worships Janie because
Caucasian features. She cannot understand
why a woman like Janie would marry a man as dark as Tea Cake, and
she wants to introduce Janie to her brother.
husband. Sam Watson is a source of great humor and wisdom during
the conversations on Jody’s porch. When a few Eatonville residents
begin to express their resentment toward Jody, Sam acknowledges
that Jody can be overbearing and commanding but points out that
Jody is responsible for many improvements in the town.
Janie’s mother. Leafy was born shortly before the end
of the Civil War and ran away after giving birth to Janie.
resident of Eatonville, Florida. Hicks is one of the first people
to meet Janie and Jody. He tries unsuccessfully to lure Janie away
of Tea Cake and Janie’s friends in the Everglades. Motor Boat flees
the hurricane with them and weathers the storm in an abandoned house.
The delivery boy and assistant shopkeeper at Jody’s store.
After Jody’s death, Hezekiah begins to mimic Jody’s affectations.
friendly white doctor who is well known in
young man whom Janie kisses when she starts to feel sexual desires
at age sixteen. This incident prompts Nanny to force Janie to marry
the more socially respectable Logan Killicks.
Annie Tyler and Who Flung
A wealthy widow who lived in Eatonville, and her
much younger fiancé, who took her money and fled at the first opportunity.
Early in her marriage to Tea Cake, Janie fears that he will turn
out to be like Who Flung and that she will end up like Annie Tyler.
Mr. and Mrs. Washburn
Nanny’s employers after she became a free woman.
Nanny lived in a house in the Washburn’s backyard, and they helped
raise Janie with their own children.
girl in the Everglades who flirts relentlessly with Tea Cake. Janie
grows extremely jealous of Nunkie, but after Tea Cake reassures
her that Nunkie means nothing to him, Nunkie disappears from the