Summary and Analysis
When Tea Cake visits, he is always welcome. He helps Janie in the store by frying fish, making corn bread, and entertaining customers by playing the guitar. One evening while Janie is relaxing, he begins combing her hair. He urges her to look at herself in the mirror, where she will see a reflection of a very attractive woman.
The two avoid one another at first. Janie is unsure that she can trust him, and Tea Cake is afraid that he will lose her. After a serious discussion about the age difference between them, he leaves, and Janie spends the next day thinking about him and trying to get him out of her mind. She finally accepts his intentions, and their relationship is consummated. Tea Cake then disappears for four days, and this causes Janie great anguish. When he returns, Tea Cake informs Janie that he has been working to make enough money to take her to the Sunday School picnic. Janie is concerned that Tea Cake is only inviting her to be polite. Tea Cake assures Janie that she is the only one for him.
As a result of her two unhappy marriages, Janie is reluctant to build a relationship with Tea Cake, especially since Janie is considerably older than Tea Cake. However, Tea Cake encourages Janie to enjoy life and realize her beauty. Again, Hurston uses the images of bees, blossoms, and trees. This time, however, Tea Cake serves as the basis for the comparison. Janie reveals that "he could be a bee to a blossom — a pear tree blossom in the spring." Neither Logan nor Joe was compared using the metaphor. For the first time in the novel, Janie has found the love she has craved since she was a teenager.
Unlike both her previous husbands, Tea Cake does not judge Janie. The porch sitters, Logan, and Joe have judged Janie on her beauty, her work ethic, and her pursuit for her own identity. Tea Cake loves Janie unconditionally. He tells Janie that "nobody else on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby." With Tea Cake, Janie can finally be herself.
One of Janie's most striking attributes is her long braids of hair. Joe exerted his power and control over Janie by demanding that she hide her braids under a head rag. Since Janie's braids served as a symbol of her beauty, Joe wanted her to conceal them so that other men might be discouraged from soliciting her. The image of Tea Cake combing Janie's hair serves to represent Janie's new found independence from Joe. Finally, she is free of Joe's control, which stifled her individuality and her beauty.
You got me in de go long opening for a proposal of marriage. Janie has captivated Tea Cake, and he will "go long" through life with her.
run our conversation from grassroots to pine trees We've gone as far as we can go with this conversation — from minor matters to larger issues. Hurston has used other expressions like this to indicate limits and extremes in conversations.
De big Sunday School picnic The Sunday School picnic that took place on a spring or summer day was often the biggest social event in a small community like Eatonville.