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.

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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.

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Tea Cake stokes Janie’s desire by maintaining his distance from her. The old cliché “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is applicable; in more academic language, Janie’s desire is predicated on a lack of what she wants most. Tea Cake seems to manipulate this lack to make Janie love him more. In Chapter 14, he achieves something neither Logan nor Jody is able to accomplish: getting Janie to work out of her own free will. Having already shown her the pain of separation from him in Chapter 13, Tea Cake plays on this memory to make her want to work in the fields. One can also argue, however, that Tea Cake’s actions are not so manipulative. After all, part of his attractiveness stems from his wild, vivacious personality; perhaps his partying and gambling are simply manifestations of his character. Similarly, perhaps he is being genuine when he claims to be lonely during the day; neither the narrator nor Janie considers his intentions anything but honest.

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In any case, it is important to remember that Tea Cake makes Janie genuinely happy. He continues to accord her respect and remains unthreatened by her empowerment. He teaches her to shoot a gun, another phallic object associated with masculine power, and remains undisturbed by the fact that she becomes more proficient than him. Unlike Jody, who forces Janie to conceal the masculine power that her hair embodies, Tea Cake encourages Janie’s strength. Finally, Janie’s time in the Everglades is filled with incredible richness. The long final paragraph of Chapter 14 is an exuberant celebration—once again using extended vernacular dialogue—of the folk life of the Everglades. She is closer than ever before to the ideal of the pear tree, leading a satisfying life within rich, fertile nature.

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This nearing toward her dream is perhaps the reason that Janie sticks with Tea Cake despite his lapses in judgment. He treats her terribly at times, taking her presence for granted and dominating her emotions. Although he clearly loves and needs her, he certainly possesses her more than she possesses him. Yet Janie doesn’t mind this inequality. This acceptance of inequality is related to the idea of gender differences postulated at the beginning of the novel. As becomes evident in subsequent chapters, Hurston implies that men have a fundamental need for possession that women lack. Because Tea Cake respects Janie so much, his occasional domination of her seems insignificant. In fact, it could be argued that Tea Cake’s domineering personality is what enables Janie to grow. He pulls her down to the Everglades without any input from her and it becomes the most fulfilling experience of her life.

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