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Louis-Antoine de Bougainville

Chapter 11

Janie is obviously interested in Tea Cake, but she does not want to let on to others that she is. For one thing, he is nearly 15 years her junior; for another thing, it is just possible that he is like so many other suitors—out to fleece her. She hesitates to ask Hezekiah (the other clerk) about Tea Cake. Instead, she makes up her mind that he is a flirt and decides to snub him when next he comes around.

But when Tea Cake reappears exactly a week later, she cannot resist his charms and soon the two are playing checkers to the delight of all. Some men stand over Janie and try to tell her how to move. When Hezekiah closes the shop, Janie and Tea Cake walk back to the house and he sits on the porch with her.

They laugh under the moonlight. She brings out cake, he picks lemons, and she makes lemonade. Then he declares that the moon is too pretty for anybody to be sleeping, and says that they should go fishing. They dig worms by lamplight. Tea Cake makes her feel like a child again, which is what she likes.

The next day Hezekiah tries to warn Janie that Tea Cake is good for nothing, but all he means is that Tea Cake is not like Joe, who was a mayor. Tea Cake just likes to have fun. He is a kind of innocent, of course—and that is why Janie is falling in love with him.

They finally have a serious discussion about their relationship. She is worried that she is too old for him and that he is too young—but he does not think so. The more she thinks about it, Tea Cake seems to be a “glance from God.”

Tea Cake comes early the next day to reassure Janie that he is not just a moonlight kind of guy and that his daytime thoughts are as real as his nighttime thoughts. They spend the day and night together. Tea Cake assures her that there is no one else like her, that she alone has the “keys to the kingdom.”

In this chapter, Janie’s dream appears to be coming true. She has not rushed off with Tea Cake, and run off after a half-realized dream. Tea Cake has shown himself to be consistent, loyal, and true to his word. They are both like children when they are together. Their love seems true and real—and unlike what many other people experience, who settle for security, which often seems to turn into a kind of slavery.

Chapter 12

The town begins to take notice of Mrs. Mayor Starks and Tea Cake, and it does not approve—especially since Mr. Starks has only been dead nine months, and here is Janie running around in pink and blue, and driving off with Tea Cake, and not going to church like she used to! The town’s disapproval is manifest in Sam, Pheoby’s husband, who tells Pheoby that Janie is looking good lately—and that it is on account of that Tea Cake. Pheoby tells her husband the town suffers from jealousy and malice. Sam says the whole town is talking bad about her and that her reputation is sinking. Pheoby decides she will talk to Janie and try to argue some sense into her.

Janie tells Pheoby about her intention to sell off the store and go off with Tea Cake. Pheoby warns Janie that Tea Cake does not have a dime to his name, but Janie does not mind. She is tired of doing things Nanny’s way: now she is going to do things her way.

This chapter reveals Janie’s new plan and her seemingly newfound self-confidence. It is Tea Cake, whose name is as sweet as his person, who has allowed Janie to really become the woman she was meant to be: full, alive, spirited, and childlike. Janie has no worldly ambitions—as Joe Starks did. Janie’s sole ambition is to love and be loved—and she believes that she has found that with Tea Cake.

Chapter 13

Janie leaves Eatonville to marry Tea Cake, who is waiting for her in Jacksonville, where he has been working on the railroads. She takes a couple hundred dollars in security money with her. Tea Cake meets her at the station and keeps his word. They marry.

A week later, when Janie wakes in the morning to find Tea Cake and the money, she begins to worry. Tea Cake is gone longer than usual when Janie starts to think of Annie Tyler, who ran off with a man, who then swindled. Tyler had returned to town a defeated and broken woman. Janie is afraid this will happen to her.

But then Tea Cake returns to Janie’s relief. He tells her that when he saw the money he just knew he had to throw a party for his friends on the railroad. Janie is a little hurt that he did not ask her to come—but Tea Cake confesses that they were just “common” people and were not the sort of folk that mayors’ wives would socialize with. Janie reacts to Tea Cake’s classism, and declares that class does not matter to her—that as long as she is with Tea Cake, they can go anywhere and do anything.

Tea Cake then promises to make up the money by gambling. He successfully wins $300 dollars at the card table, but when he tries to pull out of the game with his winnings, another player stabs him in the back. The wounds are not deadly, however, and Janie is able to nurse Tea Cake back to health. Then Tea Cake pronounces that they will go down to the Everglades to work in the muck.

In this chapter, Janie shows that she is no longer a slave to “security” ala Joe Starks but now a slave to love ala Tea Cake. Yet, it is a much better slavery—and one that she prefers. Love is her bondage, and will be even if it makes her vulnerable. The reality of her situation is now becoming apparent: love is not all pear trees and fruit; it comes with risks and costs and must be labored at just as much as the store front must be tended to.

Chapter 14

Janie and Tea Cake arrive in the Everglades and secure themselves a house before the rest of the workers show up. Tea Cake picks beans and teaches Janie how to shoot and hunt. She is just happy to be with him. But she becomes a better at shooting than Tea Cake. They are able to sell hides for extra money.

Many workers come to the Everglades. They are all pour and looking to make money by picking beans in the muck. Tea Cake is so full of good spirits that he keeps everyone laughing and having a good time. He plays guitar in his doorway and people are drawn to the sounds.

Janie stays home and cooks and cleans. One day Tea Cake comes home early and confesses that he misses Janie and that she better come pick beans with him. So the next day she goes out to help. Some of the other women had been speculating that she was too good to pick beans, but Janie turns out to be so much fun in the muck that everyone soon loves her as much as Tea Cake.

Every night they have company in the house. Tea Cake would play cards and Janie would reflect on her past and her life with Joe. She imagines what Eatonville would think if only they could see her now!

In this chapter Janie becomes the salt of the earth, with her new husband Tea Cake. They live off the land and are simple people, happy to work and have fun together. It is the fulfillment of Janie’s dream. But as the beginning of the novel suggested, it can only last for so long.

Chapter 15

This chapter reveals just a hint of the imperfections that happen in life, that stir one from the dream. Here, it is the flirtation of Nunkie, which catches the attention of Tea Cake. Nunkie is a young, chunky girl who flirts with Tea Cake out in the fields and tries to get him to chase her. It goes on for a few weeks, with others beginning to take notice as well. Janie becomes jealous.

One morning she notices that Nunkie and Tea Cake are missing from the fields. She asks around and finds them off some ways struggling together. Without thinking, she leaps upon them, separates them, and wants to know what is going. Tea Cake cries that Nunkie stole his working tickets. Janie goes after Nunkie, but Nunkie runs away. Janie then goes home and tries to beat Tea Cake but he holds her wrists. Finally, they exhaust themselves, and make up.

In this chapter Janie reveals a fear within herself—a still unresolved sense of reality: that she is old and Tea Cake is young—and that there will be other young girls who try to seduce him. But Tea Cake calms her fears and convinces her that she is the only one for him.

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