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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

Chapters 13–14

Summary Chapters 13–14

Summary: Chapter 13

Janie leaves Eatonville and meets Tea Cake in Jacksonville, where they marry. Still wary of being ripped off, Janie doesn’t tell Tea Cake about the two hundred dollars that she has pinned inside her shirt. A week later, Tea Cake leaves early, saying that he is just running to get fish for breakfast. He doesn’t come back, and Janie discovers that her money is missing. She spends the day thinking about Ms. Tyler, the widow in Eatonville who had been ripped off by a charming rascal named Who Flung. But Tea Cake returns later that night to a still-distraught Janie. He explains that a wave of excitement came over him when he saw the money; he spent it all on a big chicken and macaroni dinner for his fellow railroad workers. It turned into a raucous party, full of music and fighting. Janie is insulted that Tea Cake didn’t invite her, but Tea Cake further explains that he was worried that Janie might think that his crowd was too low class. Janie says that from now on, she wants to enjoy everything that he does.

Tea Cake then promises to reimburse Janie. He claims to be a great gambler and goes off Saturday night to play dice and cards. Again, he disappears for a while and Janie frets. Around daybreak he returns. He got hurt the previous night, cut with a razor by an angry loser, but he won three hundred and twenty-two dollars. Janie, who now trusts Tea Cake, tells him about the twelve hundred dollars that she has in the bank. Tea Cake announces that she will never have to touch it, that he will provide for her, and that they will leave for “the muck” (the Everglades), where he will get work.

Summary: Chapter 14

Janie, completely in love with Tea Cake, is overwhelmed by the rich, fertile fields of the Everglades. Tea Cake is familiar with life in the muck and immediately gets them settled before the season’s rush of migrant workers arrives. He plans to pick beans during the day and play guitar and roll dice at night. As the season begins, Tea Cake and Janie live a comfortable life. They plant beans, Tea Cake teaches Janie how to shoot a gun, and they go hunting together. She eventually develops into a better shot than he.

The season soon gets underway. Poor transients pour into the muck in droves to farm the land; eventually, all the houses are taken and people camp out in the fields. At night, the Everglades are filled with wild energy as the cheap bars pulse with music and revelry. Tea Cake’s house becomes a center of the community, a place where people hang out and listen to him play music. At first, Janie stays at home and cooks glorious meals, but soon Tea Cake gets lonely and begins cutting work to see her. Janie then decides to join him in the fields so that they can be together all day. Working in her overalls and sitting on the cabin stoop with the migrant workers, Janie laughs to herself about what the people in Eatonville would say if they could see her. She feels bad for the status-obsessed townspeople who cannot appreciate the folksy pleasure of sitting and jawing on the porch.

Analysis: Chapters 13–14

Up to this point, the relationship between Janie and Tea Cake has seemed almost too good to be true. Chapters 13 and 14, while continuing to demonstrate that their relationship is a good experience for Janie, raise some complex questions about Tea Cake’s character. Their arrival in the Everglades is a moment of fulfillment for Janie as she finds herself surrounded by fertile nature. Overall, her experience is generally a fulfilling one. Nevertheless, Tea Cake manipulates her in subtle ways, raising, once again, the specter of male domination in her life.

Chapter 13 is marked by Tea Cake’s cruel absences from Janie. Although Janie accepts his explanations, it is hard to believe that someone as intelligent as Tea Cake could be so careless only a week after his wedding. His departure to go gambling seems likewise strange and needlessly risky. Yet after all her suffering in this chapter, Janie is more in love with Tea Cake than before; she feels a complete, powerful, “self-crushing love.” Tea Cake has become a personification of all that she wants; her dreams and Tea Cake have become one and the same. In literary terms, this is a kind of metonymy, or substitution: Tea Cake has enabled Janie to begin her quest and, in the process, has become the goal of her quest.