Their Eyes Were Watching God Questions and Answers
by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God book cover
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How did the townspeople feel about Janie going out with Teacake?  

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Jennifer Cannaday eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The townspeople were very critical of her choice to see Teacake.  From an external point of view, the marriage of Janie and Joe Starks has everything required for success: wealth, respect, a business and stability.  For African Americans of this time period, these were nearly impossible goals, and Janie and Joe are proof that blacks can succeed. The people in town never realize that Starks is slowly killing Janie by trying to force her into a role which she never wanted.

So, when she starts to see Teacake, the town sees this as a betrayal. Before, the town has held up Janie as evidence that a black woman could achieve success, but instead of appreciating the wealth and respectablity that Joe provided, she is giving that up for "love."  Many of them believe that Janie is too sexual, giving up the responsibilities of an adult woman for the frivolous and silly infatuation of a girl. This is why, when Janie returns, the women want to hear all the gossip.  They assume that Janie has come home because Teacake has betrayed her.  They see this as suitable punishment for her unwillingness to follow the social rules.

That conflict is central to the book.  The analysis link below explains the metaphor of the ship offered in the very first chapter.  The narrator explains that men wait for their ship to come in, meaning they are at the mercy of luck.  Women, however, “forget all of those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget.”  According to the link, that means that they control their own lives.  Janie has taken control of her own life, but the people in town will always see her as someone who turned her back on them and their community.

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jessiejamison | Student

how did the townspeople feel about Janie going out with tea cake

mkcapen1 | Student

Janie is an independent woman in the book Their Eyes Were Watching God.Initially Janie did not want to react to Teacake's flirtations but his easy way and smooth conversation led to checkers and before long into a very real relationship.  He was younger than Janie but he made her happy and feel safe and good.  He brings joy to her life that has been hard and void of a good relationship.

The townspeople liked to gossip and Janie was the receiving end of their gossip in a negative manner.  They felt that Janie was not doing right and that she needed to behave better.  Janie does not care because for the first time in her life she has the chance to know love.