Summary and Analysis
Janie boards a train in Eatonville and goes to Jacksonville to marry Tea Cake. It leaves too early in the morning for many of the townsfolk to see her depart, but those who do report to the others how beautiful she looked.
Tea Cake is a man of his word: They are quickly married. However, his first act as a new husband is to disappear with $200 of Janie's money. Janie has visions of her fate being similar to that of Mrs. Tyler, an Eatonville woman who was seduced — and then abandoned — by a younger man; afterwards, she returned to Eatonville in a totally decrepit condition.
After hours of Janie's fretting and worrying, a smiling and joking Tea Cake finally returns. He explains that he did not run off with another woman and that he never has any intention of doing so. He confesses that when he accidentally spied the money that Janie had brought along as a sort of personal insurance, he couldn't resist the temptation to throw a huge party for the men who worked on the railroad gangs with him and their wives and friends.
Tea Cake describes the party, making Janie laugh when he tells her about the two dollar admission he charged ugly women. Janie would have gone to the party, she says, if he had come back for her; he didn't do that, he says, because he thought that she wouldn't like the people. Janie assures him that she does not "class off." People are people to her, and she'll accept his friends.
The money that Tea Cake took from Janie will be replaced through Tea Cake's skill in gambling. Winning the money, however, involves some risk. When one loser objects to Tea Cake's pulling out of the game with all of the money, he stabs Tea Cake twice in the back. Janie doctors Tea Cake's wounds, which are fortunately only superficial. His winnings total more than $300. When his wounds are healed, he tells her, they'll leave Jacksonville and go to work on the muck in the Everglades, around Clewiston and Belle Glade, working in cane, bean, and tomato fields.
This chapter marks the beginning of a new phase in Janie's life. She leaves the town of Eatonville behind, along with the memories of Joe Starks and the judgmental townspeople. Janie embarks on a new life with her new love, Tea Cake.
Although Janie is madly in love with Tea Cake, her greatest fear is that he will leave her for another woman. When Tea Cake disappears with Janie's money, her fear becomes evident as she remembers Mrs. Annie Tyler and her experience with a much younger man. Her panic "made itself into pictures and hung around Janie's bedside all night long." Janie wants to believe that Tea Cake will return to her, but she seems to focus on the worst, probably because she has not experienced a truly loving and healthy relationship in her life.
Hurston also highlights class differences in this chapter. Tea Cake reveals to Janie that he didn't invite her to his party because the people there were not "high muckety mucks." According to Tea Cake, "Dem wuz railroad hands and dey womenfolks." He fears that Janie would not be accepting of these people, simply because she has been playing the role of "Mrs. Mayor Joe Starks" for a while. Tea Cake wanted Janie to see "no commonness" in him. They are able to resolve these class differences when Janie reveals to Tea Cake that she wants to be with him, no matter where he is or who his friends are.
Yet again, Janie realizes her powerful love for Tea Cake, especially after his absence and his injuries. She feels a "self-crushing" love for her husband. It is at this point that Janie's "soul crawled out from its hiding place." Janie is no longer controlled by a domineering husband or an overprotective grandmother. Finally, she has found true love for the first time with Tea Cake.
two hundred dollars inside her shirt Janie is following some basic wisdom shared by wise women: Always have enough money on hand for your fare home — no matter who your date is.
twelve o'clock whistle Jacksonville is a railroad town, and railroad shops usually had loud whistles that sounded at regular times during the day.
pink silk vest Janie's "vest," or undershirt, is made of silk. Chances are that most of the women in Eatonville wore cotton underclothes.
round house a circular house building, with a turntable in the center, used for storing and repairing locomotives.