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.