Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
"Why, Tea Cake? Whut good do combin’ mah hair do you? It’s mah comfortable , not yourn."
"It’s mine too. Ah ain’t been sleepin’ so good for more’n uh week cause Ah been wishin’ so bad tuh git mah hands in yo’ hair. It’s so pretty. It feels jus’ lak underneath uh dove’s wing next to mah face." (11.38)
First of all, Joe has kept Janie’s beauty hidden well enough that she doesn’t seem to be aware of how attractive she is. Her beauty is a torment to men when they can’t touch it, but a rapturous pleasure when they can. Tea Cake’s enjoyment of Janie’s beautiful hair, however, is different than Joe’s because Tea Cake tries to give her pleasure from her own beauty as well as taking pleasure for himself.
[Tea Cake]: "Ah ain’t been sleepin’ so good for more’n uh week cause Ah been wishin’ so bad tuh git mah hands in yo’ hair. It’s so pretty. It feels jus’ lak underneath uh dove’s wing next to mah face."
"Umph! You’se might easy satisfied. Ah been had dis same hair next tuh mah face ever since Ah cried de fust time, and ‘tain’t never gimme me no thrill."
"Ah tell you lak you told me – you’se mighty hard tuh satisfy. Ah betcha dem lips don’t satisfy yuh neither."
"Dat’s right, Tea Cake. They’s dere and Ah make use of ‘em whenever it’s necessary, but nothin’ special tuh me."
"Umph! umph! umph! Ah betcha you don’t never go tuh de lookin’ glass and enjoy yo’ eyes yo’self. You lets other folks git all de enjoyment out of ‘em ‘thout takin’ in any of it yo’self."
"Naw, Ah never gazes at ‘em in de lookin’ glass. If anybody else gits any pleasure out of ‘em Ah ain’t been told about it." (11.38-43)
Janie’s beautiful physical attributes are vehicles of pleasure for everyone but herself. The idea of beauty is closely linked to pleasure, but while women seem to have the beauty, men are the ones who enjoy it. Janie may be flirting with Tea Cake here, but readers know that she is as humble as she claims here, never really taking her beauty for granted nor actively using it to her advantage.
Janie hung over the newel post thinking so long that she all but went to sleep there. However, before she went to bed she took a good look at her mouth, eyes, and hair. (11.67)
Tea Cake’s words have made Janie more self-conscious about her beauty. In curious response to Tea Cake’s praises, Janie appraises herself in front of the mirror. Because she does not voice her verdict to readers, we do not know how she feels about her looks. Does she look at herself and see nothing special, or has Tea Cake now allowed her to get pleasure out of her own beauty? He did (in 11.39) imply that maybe she should look in the mirror and enjoy her own looks instead of just letting everyone else feast their eyes on her.