Last Updated on April 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518
Janie and Tea Cake move to the Everglades and settle near Lake Okechobee, where they make an honest but meager living planting and picking beans. Together, they rent a rundown shack on the shores of the lake and wait for the planting season to begin. Bored, they go out hunting...
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Janie and Tea Cake move to the Everglades and settle near Lake Okechobee, where they make an honest but meager living planting and picking beans. Together, they rent a rundown shack on the shores of the lake and wait for the planting season to begin. Bored, they go out hunting with Tea Cake’s gun and then sell the animal skins and teeth in Palm Beach, where they spend their money having a good time.
Finally, the wave of workers arrives. Tea Cake quickly becomes popular with the other men, and soon enough he and Janie settle into a routine where he goes off to work and she stays home and cooks. Eventually, he starts coming back for twenty or thirty minutes at a time during the day to check on her. He says it’s because he misses her, but this is really a ploy to get her to come pick beans with him, thus increasing their income.
At night, the other workers crowd around Janie and Tea Cake’s old shack, talking, gambling, and listening to Tea Cake play guitar. Janie enjoys this, because, unlike Joe, Tea Cake doesn’t mind if she joins in the fun. She watches a contentious card game that ends with one boisterous character named Ed taking everyone’s money and using it to buy new clothes from Sears and Roebuck.
Hurston makes a point of saying that Janie is a better shot than Tea Cake, foreshadowing a scene in chapter 19 when she is forced to shoot him because he draws a gun at her.
Hurston uses a metaphor when she says “Tea Cake’s house was a magnet,” meaning that it drew a large crowd of people to it.
Hurston draws an obvious parallel between Janie’s life with Joe and Janie’s life with Tea Cake in the Everglades. With Tea Cake, Janie has the freedom to sit out on the porch, talk to the men, tell jokes, and just generally do as she pleases. This parallel suggests that, while Joe was a mean and controlling husband, Tea Cake is nice and carefree. It’s meant to make Tea Cake look better, but the reader already knows that he isn’t as perfect as he might seem, so the parallel arguably doesn’t have the effect Hurston intended.
Hurston repeats the word “big” to emphasize just how huge everything is in the Everglades: “Big Lake Okechobee, big beans, big canes, big weeds, big everything.”
Work. This theme has woven throughout the novel, as Janie went from working on Logan Killicks’s farm to running Joe Starks’s store to becoming a business owner herself, but work becomes all the more important in this chapter because of the brief lack of work Janie experiences. Since marrying Tea Cake, she hasn’t had to work and has instead stayed home and been a housewife for the past two chapters. Originally, Tea Cake promises to support her financially, but this doesn't end up being the case, and she returns to work soon after arriving in the Everglades.