With Tea Cake, an entirely new worldview enters the story. Tea Cake clearly respects Janie for who she is and wants to engage her in a substantive manner. He converses with her and plays checkers with her—both activities that grant equal status to the participants. The substantial space that Hurston devotes to their conversation contrasts with Janie’s first meeting with Jody in Chapter 4, when he charms and overwhelms her with his smooth talking. Foreshadowing the lack of meaningful contact to come in their relationship, Janie’s first conversation with Jody is brief. Their subsequent flirtations are not presented directly but instead glossed over by the narration: “Every day after that they managed . . . to talk. . . .” When Tea Cake and Janie first meet, on the other hand, they fill several pages with real dialogue, hinting at the potential richness of their relationship.
Furthermore, Tea Cake exhibits a creativity that is immensely appealing to Janie. He makes her laugh with fanciful, imaginative jokes: pretending to hide behind imaginary lampposts, talking to invisible companions, making puns and creative wordplays. Tea Cake’s show of creativity contrasts with Jody’s penchant for consumption. Whereas Jody lives to consume and has materialistic goals involving power and status that he displays with objects like fancy spittoons, Tea Cake, as his creativity demonstrates, is concerned with things beyond material life. By this point in the novel, Janie has realized that her quest for the horizon involves a pursuit of the mystical and unknowable, mysteries that Jody’s materialistic worldview could never approach. Through his respect for her and his vibrancy, Tea Cake seems to Janie the man who will complement her and take her toward the horizon for which she longs.