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[Tea Cake]: "You don’t have tuh say, if it wuzn’t fuh me, baby, cause Ah’m heah, and then Ah want yuh tuh know it’s uh man heah." (18.109)
Tea Cake considers himself a man because he is always there for Janie and he is willing to perform all sorts of gallantries for her.
Janie achieved the tail of the cow and lifted her head up along the cow’s rump, as far as she could above water. The cow sunk a little with the added load and thrashed a moment in terror. Thought she was being pulled down by a gator. The dog stood up and growled like a lion, stiff-standing hackles, stiff muscles, teeth uncovered as he lashed up his fury for the charge. Tea Cake split the water like an otter, opening his knife as he dived. The dog raced down the backbone of the cow to the attack and Janie screamed and slipped far back on the tail of the cow, just out of reach of the dog’s angry jaws. He wanted to plunge in after her but dreaded the water, somehow. Tea Cake rose out of the water at the cow’s rump and seized the dog by the neck. But he was a powerful dog and Tea Cake was over-tired. So he didn’t kill the dog with one stroke a he had intended. But the dog couldn’t free himself either. They fought and somehow he managed to bite Tea Cake high up on his cheek-bone once. Then Tea Cake finished him and sent him to the bottom to stay there. (18.96)
Tea Cake jumps in the water to defend Janie, his true love, from the mad dog. As a result, he is bitten and eventually dies from rabies. Thus, his gallant act of love for Janie results in death. Tea Cake dies for love of Janie.
"We been tuhgether round two years. If you kind see de light at daybreak, you don’t keer if you die at dusk. It’s so many people never seen de light at all. Ah wuz fumblin’ round and God opened de door."
He dropped to the floor and put his head in her lap. "Well then, Janie, you meant whut you didn’t say, ‘cause Ah never knowed you wuz so satisfied wid me lak dat." (18.37-38)
Even in the face of death, Janie doesn’t regret anything she’s done with Tea Cake, even if doing things differently might’ve saved her life. For Janie, loving Tea Cake, even for only a short two years, has made her life worthwhile and satisfying. She characterizes Tea Cake as the sunlight in her life and Tea Cake is amazed by the intensity of her love and devotion.