Their Eyes Were Watching God; Day 4

February 25, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Their Eyes Were Watching God | 2 Comments
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theireyeswatchinggod.jpgTheir Eyes Were Watching God

Day 4: Chapters 13-17

Chapter 13

Jacksonville. Tea Cake’s letter had said Jacksonville. (116)

The chapter opens with Janie leaving (by train) to meet Tea Cake and get married. All seems to be going good for a while. Janie is the happiest she’s ever been. Tea Cake is as good as his word. They leave right from the train station to go to the preacher’s house to get married. But one morning, Janie wakes up to find her $200 gone. This makes her frantic as you can imagine. And she starts hearing everyone in the town warning her about how Tea Cake was just after her money. The next day–a whole day and night after she’s discovered he’s gone–he comes back. He comes back with a story, along with a “fine guitar and twelve dollars left in his pocket.” He promises that he’ll win back the rest of her money that weekend gambling. Sure enough, that weekend he wins $321 dollars. He gives her $200 back and tells her to put it back in the bank. They’ll live off his money–what he can earn, what he can provide. So confident in her man once more, Janie let “her soul crawl out from its hiding place.

Chapter 14

To Janie’s strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new.

The chapter sees Janie and Tea Cake moving and settling down. He’s gotten work in “the muck” and he’ll be in the fields most days, and gambling most nights. Janie grows a lot in this chapter. She learns to shoot and hunt for one thing, and another is that she takes to working in the field alongside her man. She’s happy as can be working among the “common” folks and wearing blue denim overalls.

Chapter 15

Janie gets jealous in this chapter and that is really about it. Tea Cake denies that he’s flirting or cheating with another woman. But Janie sees the way women look at him. Especially one called Nunkie.

Chapter 16

The season closed and people went away like they had come–in droves. (139)

Janie and Tea Cake stay on “on the muck.” This is an uncomfortable chapter in some ways, here we are introduced to Mrs. Turner. A black woman who hates blacks. A woman who despises her own people. A woman who prides herself that she has many Caucasian features. A woman who would try to pass for white if she could get away with it. A woman who feels she’s better than everyone else based on the lightness of her dark skin. She befriends Janie because Janie is light as well. But she despises Tea Cake because he’s so dark. She wants her brother to come and sweep Janie off her feet. She feels that her brother would be a better match because of his skin color. Tea Cake naturally despises her right back. Janie puts up with Mrs. Turner but she doesn’t necessarily like her.

Chapter 17

A great deal of the old crowd were back. But there were lots of new ones too. (147)

Time for another season “on the muck.” More jealousy. He being jealous of her at times. She being jealous of him at times. This chapter is also difficult to read. Up until this point Janie and Tea Cake make for a good couple, a romantic couple. Tea Cake is so much better than Logan and Jody. But in this chapter, he ‘whips’ Janie because he’s jealous. And the author seemingly lets him get away with it. Janie does too.

Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss. Everybody talked about it next day in the fields. It aroused a sort of envy in both men and women. The way he petted and pampered her as if those two or three face slaps had nearly killed her made the women see visions and the helpless way she hung on him made men dream dreams. (147)

I don’t see any way to rationalize that passage. I just don’t. And the fact that his hitting her only made her love him more baffles me. I just don’t get it.

The rest of the chapter is about Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Turner’s brother and Mrs. Turner’s cafe.

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  1. I was so mad when TeaCake hit Janie! I thought that finally she had found a good man…a decent man and then bam…literally. And like you said, he gets away with it! It was a big let down because Janie is such a strong woman…and to let that happen is just sad. Attribute it to love? Maybe…so many woman do, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of this strong woman who breaks down those barriers?

  2. I think the balance between being weak and strong and/or dependent and independent is a hard one for Janie. I think she seesaws in a few places. After Jody’s death, she spends so much time being strong, I think we get used to her being strong and independent and courageous–more of a “feminist” if you will. That when she does go back into a relationship, it’s difficult to see how things are balanced. I think this is definitely the closest she comes to being on equal terms with a man. Of being in a spousal relationship instead of a master-slave or father-child relationship. But Janie isn’t perfect. Tea Cake isn’t perfect. There relationship isn’t perfect. Maybe that’s the point? That there are no “perfect” people??? Who knows. I think the modern definition of a good guy though would be that there wouldn’t be any violence or abuse whether physical or verbal. Maybe it’s a time and place and culture thing as well. I guess society wasn’t what it is today. I think as a society, as a culture, maybe things were a lot more relaxed back then. Men were allowed to do what they wanted without anyone thinking anything about it. I don’t think there were many if any public advocates saying this is wrong, don’t put up with it, you deserve better.


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