Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tea Cake? Honestly You Can Do Better Janie.


Is it just me, or is Tea Cake less than the perfect husband to you?

Personally I feel like Janie could do better. Perhaps her first two marriages with Logan Killicks and Jody Starks had left her desperate, but I thought Tea Cake was hardly the glorified hunk that he seems to be to Janie.

Let me characterize Tea Cake. Tea Cake is a womanizer. Tea Cake is irresponsible. Tea Cake is envious. Tea Cake is violent. Tea Cake is a terrible nickname.

Now I'm not saying Tea Cake is a bad person. We all have our vices, but what I find unusual about Tea Cake is that he remains the same even after marrying Janie. Women are the reformers of men. When a man is tied down, so to speak, he no longer has the same privileges that he once had. A relationship often implies a matter of equity and sacrifice. Both members of the party must give up the luxury of being single and commit to the other person. Janie clearly commits to her relationship with Tea Cake. Many men find her attractive and yet she never mentions the thought of infidelity. She does not even go so far as to flirt with other men. Tea Cake on the other hand clearly retains his casanova qualities. His little episode with Nunkie was proof of a refusal to relieve his position as a womanizer. When Janie witnesses this relationship with Nunkie, she immediately chastises Tea Cake, but fails to teach him a lesson. Usually sleeping with your partner after catching him or her flirting does not count as punishment. In this situation, Tea Cake comes out as the victor, having flirted with Nunkie and still receiving passionate love from Janie. Janie on the other hand remains the loser.

But jealousy is not solely exhibited within Janie. Tea Cake is an envious, controlling man. In certain situations, I believe that jealousy is a necessary and healthy facet to a working relationship, but Tea Cake represents an extremety. When Mrs. Turner pressures Janie to meet her brother, Tea Cake is furious. Some jealousy is warranted in this situation, but the method in which Tea Cake deals with his envy is unacceptable. He begins by trashing Mrs. Turner's business. This is illegal, violent, and immature. Why must he directly attack Mrs. Turner's livelihood to ward off her brother. A simple discussion with Mrs. Turner or Janie would suffice in most cases, but Tea Cakes is obviously not like most cases. At one point, Tea Cake violently hits Janie to appease his envy. When questioned, Tea Cake's reasoning does not even make sense. Apparently by hitting your wife, you will scare off her suitors. Yeah... no. This scene is strangely reminescent to Jody's outburst at Janie in the store earlier in the novel. Both men were subjected to a situation where a feeling of loss of control occured. Both men remedied the situation by beating Janie. I thought we've already agreed that this was bad. And let's not forget Tea Cake pointing his gun at Janie out of jealousy. This is a slightly unfair accusation considering Tea Cake had rabies, but come on, the man almost shot his wife out of envy. We cannot dismiss this act as purely the fault of the sickness. Rabies probably amplified Tea Cakes violence and envy, but the envy is still present at the heart.

Perhaps the strangest problem with Tea Cake is his irresponsiblity. The very first night Janie marries Tea Cake, he leaves her in the early morning, takes her money, and parties for multiple days. Janie should have quit Tea Cake that very moment. Tea Cake finds the money and gambles it away. He drinks copiously and parties with strange people for something like two or three days. Then he returns with a bunch of random junk and says sorry. That is ridiculous, or a mental disorder. Tea Cake proceeds to feed Janie a bunch of sorry, sappy, apologetic excuses of which Janie continues to eat up. Tea Cake's reasoning was that he has these random urges to go splurge and party (Janie should be regretting marriage with him at this point) and that he doesn't want Janie to get involved in such tomfoolery. To make for the spent money, Tea Cake proposes to gamble her money back. That doesn't even idiomatically sound correct. Ususally one gambles money away. Luckily for Janie, Tea Cake proves to be a "skilled" dice thrower (a game completely dependent on luck by the way) and wins back her 200 dollars. Not only this, but Tea Cake offers to bring Janie with him next time he goes on a party rampage. Janie is immediately attracted to the idea because of her late husband's previous refusals to includ Janie in any of his activities. Thus Janie remains absorbed in Tea Cake's web of irresponsibility.

My bet is that if Janie had not had such terrible experiences with men in the past, Tea Cake would not have had a chance with Janie. He is too flawed. There relationship hardly presents a sense of equity or sacrifice. Actually scratch the latter bit, Janie sacrificed plently. She did almost go to jail because of Tea Cake after all.

13 comments:

  1. I just have to say, I agree with you 100% Tien.

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  2. I had a thought about why I think Janie likes Tea Cake so much despite his slightly controlling nature. Nanny resembles Tea Cake is some ways. For instance, they both claim that they would never hurt a hair on them, yet they both physically harm Janie. They both try to control what she does with her life. Tea Cake still tells Janie what she should do. It's not has bad and as obvious as her past two husbands, but the control is still present. So perhaps Janie loves Tea Cake so much because he subconsciously reminds her of Nanny...just a thought.

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  3. Everything you're saying does make a lot of sense when put in this context, but I still disagree. Tea Cake is a very flawed character, that is absoultely true. But he can have these insurmountable flaws and still truely love Janie. Plus in this relationship, Janie retains more of her individuality than she did in the other marriages because, although she takes care of Tea Cake, she is never forced to do something she doesn't want to - like tending the store. Instead Tea Cake gives her the opportunity to try new things in life. They might be impulsive and slightly risky ventures, but she is at least experiencing new things that she never got to when she was a young adult and most people try reckless things. In this way I still think that Tea Cake is a good influence overall on Janie's life.

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  4. Well I love Tea Cake.
    Tien you aren't taking into consideration the time period and the social rules about beating wives to scare off suitors. OK so this is really bad, yes, but Tea Cake loves Janie so much as can be seen in the way he talks to her and constantly reinforces his love. He wants the very best for her and I think Janie has changed him. He tells her that none of the women he used to go around with ever came close to her, nor would he consider marrying any of them. And the rabies! C'mon! Janie herself said that the man pointing the pistol at her wasn't Tea Cake, but a dog using his body. Also, he tells Janie he didn't bring her along when he left the day after they were married because he was ashamed of her finding out about the kinds of people he spends time with. Tea Cake is still insecure in a lot of ways, but he would do anything for Janie, and Janie never has any doubts about their love.

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  5. I agree that Tea Cake is hardly the ideal partner, but Janie must be terrified that she has wasted a good part of her life with men who she is not truly in love with. She has never realized her dream of having the complete love that she witnessed at the pear tree. She feels desperate that time is running out for her to find true love and passion. So while Tea Cake is not the ideal partner, she probably sees him as an acceptable man who will at least partially fulfill her lifelong dream.

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  6. I must respectfully disagree with you Tien on several of your points... first of all I would like to clarify, I believe when Tea Cake took Janie's money he spent it (mostly on other people) as opposed to gambled it away. And I think when he won it back, they were playing cards not dice and that does in fact take significantly more skill...

    I think that Hurston creates Tea Cake the way he is for several reasons. First of all I ask you to remember that Tea Cake is significantly younger than Janie which could account for his love of partying. Also he is not as irresponsible as he seems. Not once does Janie spend a single dollar of her own money that she has kept in the bank (until after Tea Cake passes). He successfully provides for Janie throughout their relationship. I also think the fact that they have such a laid back relationship is credited to Tea Cake and thats what Janie wants from her man.

    As far as Tea Cake's womanizing, I think that Nunkie was the one completely at fault for that situation. Tea Cake did nothing to encourage her behavior and I believe that Hurston used that scenario to stress the growing love between Tea Cake and Janie.

    One final thing I am compelled to rebut is your assertion that he was wrong in his actions against Mrs. Turner. I believe they were just as much motivated by his reaction to her racism as they were by his jealousy.

    In conclusion, I believe that Hurston did indeed develop Tea Cake the way she did for a reason, but I think that reason was the opposite of what you said.

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  7. I partly agree and disagree with you Tien. I agree with the fact that Tea Cake is flawed. It is not acceptable that he stole Janie's money and "partied" it away. He also disappeared for a few days without telling Janie he was going. However, I do not think that this lapse in good judgment is enough to condemn him as a horrible person. He has shown Janie that he loves her many many times. He empowered her instead of beating her down like her previous husbands. He treats Janie as an equal in that respect. He is not so old fashioned, as to not allow her to play checkers. You also need to remember that Tea Cake is a great deal younger than Janie. A young man in his twenties is not going to be as mature as the previous men that Janie has associated herself with.

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  8. Frankly I think this post is just a more fancy form of my own post so Tien, I think you need to be a little more creative when coming up with a topic. Hohohohoho just kidding my friend. I completely agree with you. From my post I mentioned some of his bad habits such as gambling and wife beating yet Janie is still as madly in love with him from the start. I'm not so much surprised as why Tea Cake has not changed after marriage because Janie is not that kind of woman who changes her man. She has been looking for adventure and not to be a stay-at-home wife cooped up in the kitchen. Sure it's nice to do something adventurous and new but Tea Cake can be plain immature sometimes. However I do believe he deeply cares about her even after all his questionable actions.

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  10. Maybe I am wrong, but personally, ever since Janie ran away with Tea Cake I thought he was sketchy. Again, what I said above is what I think. And maybe it wasn't at all Hurston's intention, but I do not think that is true love. I think Janie could have done a lot better than Tea Cake and like Jamie said was wanting to just fulfill her dream the best she could.

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  11. I found an immediate error in Amanda's reply. I urge everyone who reads her comment to disavow her arguments. She said she "loves Tea Cake". Already we see a copy-cat of Janie who is blinded by her love for Tea Cake. I hereby declare Amanda Pease's comment biased and inaccurate. Hohohohoho im so funny. Anywhoooo, I wanted to comment again because Charlotte brought up a very good point about why Janie loves Tea Cake so much and which also answers the question to my post (too bad none of you read it). I agree that Janie has missed out a great deal of her childhood what with the no parents, the forced marriage (with Logan), and the unsuccessful and ultimately unhappy marriage (Joe). Janie did not have the chance to explore life and see what life is really about. Although Tea Cake might not be the best husband a woman could get, he is perfect for Janie because he represents everything Janie needs that she lost from her childhood. He allows her to express herself and try new things while still being accepted and loved. To us Tea Cake might not be the normal husband but to Janie, she has no idea what that is. Clearly Logan and Joe were not the right husband either. By reading everyones thoughts and input I am able to understand better why Janie loves Tea Cake for the fruit cake (hohohohoho omg omg) that he really is.

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  12. i believe that marco has a point there. minus the ho ho's.

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  13. Hmm... I guess you've got me there.

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