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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

Chapters 13–14

Summary Chapters 13–14

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.

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.

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.