Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Janie is tempted to ask Hezekiah what he knows about Tea Cake, but decides not to in order not to reveal her growing interest in him. Janie convinces herself, too, that Tea Cake is too young and poor for her, and must be the kind of man who would never marry. Tea Cake waits a week until he returns to the store. At first, Janie is reluctant to be friendly toward him, still feeling residual paranoia about the possibility of him stealing her money or engaging in other strange behavior. But Tea Cake quickly charms Janie after he begins to play make-believe guitar. After they exchange brief small talk, Tea Cake asks Janie to play checkers again, and coaches her on each move so that she can improve as a player. The townspeople aren't used to seeing Janie play checkers, but enjoy watching her do so.
Despite Janie's recently improved ability to recognize her feelings as they arise, she nonetheless remains preoccupied with what the townspeople might think of her attraction to Tea Cake. However, Janie is not worried enough to forget about Tea Cake or reject his attempts to charm her: instead, Janie now finds herself open to someone as playful as Tea Cake, someone who lets her explore her own capacity for imagination and possibility. Tea Cake's decision to "coach" Janie in checkers further emphasizes his desire not just to treat Janie as an equal, but to help her improve her mind. He's not trying to stifle her, he's not telling her what to do, he's trying to help her improve.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Having stayed at the store all day, Tea Cake walks Janie home, where they then eat pound cake and make fresh lemonade. After remarking that the moon is too pretty to be "sleepin' it away," Tea Cake suggests that he and Janie go fishing at midnight. They stay out all night at the lake, and in the morning, Janie has to hide Tea Cake as she leaves to go to work in order to avoid rumors throughout town. Despite the anxiety of the whole affair, Janie expresses pleasure in feeling like "a child breaking the rules."
Tea Cake's suggestion that he and Janie go fishing at midnight symbolizes his individuality and desire to go against the grain of social norms. It is precisely this attitude of Tea Cake that attracts Janie to him. Janie reveals further growth and emotional maturity in her willingness to prioritize her own happiness, though she still feels the need to act secretly in order to avoid the town's judgment. Like a "child breaking rules" she enjoys this trickery, but at some point she will have to act as an adult and make her intentions clear.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
The next morning, Hezekiah warns Janie about spending time with a man like Tea Cake, who he believes is too "low" for a woman like Janie. Janie listens, but is nevertheless charmed once again when she arrives home that night – after climbing the steps of her porch, Tea Cake is already there waiting for her with a freshly caught trout in hand. After eating dinner, Janie falls asleep and awakes to Tea Cake combing her hair with his hand. Despite the feelings of pleasure that being with Tea Cake brings to her, Janie remains wary. As he combs her hair, Tea Cake expresses his fear that Janie is disgusted by him and that she wants him to leave. Janie consoles Tea Cake not by effusively revealing her feelings for him, but instead by reassuring him that they are friends. Tea Cake is disappointed by the way Janie labels their relationship, as he believes that they are lovers. Janie tells Tea Cake that he must be confused by the pleasures of eating fish and cornbread, and that he will feel differently the next day. Still disappointed, Tea Cake leaves and wishes Janie a good night.
Janie is clearly ambivalent about Tea Cake to a certain extent – she is affected by Hezekiah's warning about Tea Cake, but nonetheless charmed by his advances. Janie is overwhelmed by pleasure of all kinds in Tea Cake's presence, and thus is attempting to keep her rational intellect intact in order to avoid making rash decisions. This marks a new tendency for Janie, as with Jody, Janie instantly took her feelings of sexual appetite for love, without any self-questioning to balance out her immediate desire for pleasure.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Janie spends the following day thinking about Tea Cake. Despite her conscious desire to suppress her feelings for him, she refers to him as "a bee to a blossom – a pear tree blossom in spring." Yet Janie still attempts to convince herself that she is not interested in Tea Cake, even as she wonders where he is or why he hasn't returned yet. The next day, Tea Cake comes to her house, proclaims his feelings for Janie to be real, and swiftly leaves Janie to process his words. That night, Tea Cake returns again, and he and Janie eat dinner and spend the night together. Even as Janie enjoys her time with Tea Cake, she remains worried about his potential irresponsibility and inconsistency, and spends the following three days worrying in Tea Cake's absence. After these three days, however, Tea Cake returns once again to Janie's home – this time in a battered car (which, Tea Cake reveals, he bought to drive Janie around) – and asks Janie to the town picnic so that they may officially publicize their relationship to the rest of the town.
Janie's comparison between Tea Cake and "a bee to…a pear tree blossom in spring," however, shows Janie's consistency – she harkens back to the memory of her sexual awakening with Johnny Taylor in order to articulate her feelings of sexual desire and excitement about Tea Cake. Her feelings for Tea Cake are as natural as the attraction of a bee to a pear blossom in spring, and therefore cannot be resisted by the rational terms she seeks to use in order to keep her feelings at bay. Tea Cake's persistence marks him as different, once again, from Janie's previous lovers: he is committed to establishing a foundation of trust in the realm of their communication and wants to make Janie feel secure as an equal participant in their relationship. He also wants to make hat relationship public, to cease to be the child breaking the rules.
Themes
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
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