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Tea Cake and Mrs. Mayor Starks! All the men that she could get, and fooling with somebody like Tea Cake! Another thing, Joe Starks hadn’t been dead but nine months and here she goes sashaying off to a picnic in pink linen. Done quit attending church, like she used to. Gone off to Sanford in a car with Tea Cake and her all dressed in blue! It was a shame. Done took to high heel slippers and a ten dollar hat! Looking like some young girl, always in blue because Tea Cake told her to wear it. (12.1)
Society has very normative rules about how a woman of a certain age and marital status should appear in public. Janie violates these rules by donning "pink linen," "blue [clothes]," "high heel slippers and a ten dollar hat." The first two items are taboo because she has just buried her husband and should be only in mourning black. The other items are considered too extravagant for a woman as old as Janie. Tea Cake clearly likes her in these clothes, but it’s also important to note that Joe always had Janie dressed up like an old woman. Joe was always hiding Janie’s youth and beauty, but Tea Cake gives Janie a chance to be young again.
[Sam Watson]: "It’s somebody [that Janie loves] ‘cause she looks might good dese days. New dresses and her hair combed a different way nearly every day. You got to have something to comb hair over. When you see uh woman doin’ so much rakin’ in her head, she’s combin’ at some man or ‘nother." (12.4)
Sam rather accurately recognizes that Janie’s uncharacteristic primping must have some cause (like a man) behind it. Sam’s comment also shows that a woman’s appearance wasn’t supposed to give pleasure to herself; Janie’s nice hairdos are apparently for Tea Cake.
[Janie to Pheoby]: "Ah’m older than Tea Cake, yes. But he done showed me where it’s de thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people thinks de same they can make it all right. So in the beginnin’ new thoughts had tuh be thought and new words said. After Ah got used tuh dat, we gits ‘long jus’ fine. He done taught me de maiden language all over. Wait till you see de new blue satin Tea Cake done picked out for me tuh stand up wid him in. High heel slippers, necklace, earrings, everything he wants tuh see me in." (12.40)
Janie justifies her ostentatious choice in clothing by claiming that Tea Cake has "taught [her] de maiden language all over [again]." Thus, because she speaks like a maiden (young woman), she must be a maiden. While her logic may be faulty, readers may assume that because Janie feels young again, she dresses accordingly. Instead of having two separate Janie’s – the external and internal – like she did with Joe, Janie now shows on the outside how she feels on the inside.