Janie, having missed out on so many childhood necessities such as parents, a real relationship and friends, spends part of her life with three different men to get a taste of what she missed. Logan, the first man was a taste of marriage and the teachings of love. The question unanswered was "does love come as a package with marriage?" Janie wanted to experience love and she finally accepted her grandmother's wish to marry Logan. Janie got a taste of what marriage life is and quickly learned it is not one worth living with a man she cannot love. Overwhelmed by her unhappiness, Janie leaves him to pursue other opportunities to experience life.
Joe Starks, the next man in line, proves to be a charming man, someone Janie could easily fall in love with because of his gentleman-like manner. Janie chose to leave with Joe because she wanted to feel the rush of a spontaneous decision and awe society with her perfidy to Logan. Joe Starks became a symbol of responsibility and consumption of one's work. Joe place Janie in fetters to keep her from mingling with the community and focus her attention on maintaining the shop. Janie learned from this experience that she does not want to be restricted and has been held back by her marriage from doing the things that interest her. Janie almost welcomes Joe's death as a symbol of freedom once again from the ball and chain of marriage.
Last but not least, we have Tea Cake. He is a romantic who encourages Janie to be herself. Just the opposite of Joe, Tea Cake serves as a foil and Janie immediately loves the change and falls in love with Tea Cake. Janie's life with Tea Cake is happy because she partakes on everything Tea Cake does if she chooses to do so. No longer is she judged by her actions nor is she refrained from doing as she pleases. A man who promises to provide for her even though she is bountiful makes Janie even happier because there exists a man who is not selfish and disproves every rumor that denounces Tea Cake as a thief trying to steal a widow's money.
Each man is different than the other. Perhaps they are not the one's who she meant to spend the rest of her life with but a preview of what life can be with different men. These experiences prepared her for life, something she lacked as a child. Now she can choose to live with a man or not but either way she has gained valuable experience and can for certain make the right choices. Perhaps all these men and their character helped Janie learn "what it is to look for in a man".