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Quotes

Quote #16

"De lake is comin’!" and the pursuing waters growled and shouted ahead, "Yes, Ah’m comin’!", and those who could fled on. (18.60)

Again, the personification of the lake as a live speaking being gives it the semblance of an avenging angel descending to reign its divine fury and justice on a crowd of sinners. The fact that it speaks, answering, "Yes, Ah’m comin’!" to the people’s frightened cries makes it seem particularly vengeful, like a spurned God seeking revenge.

Quote #17

[Motor Boat]: "Ah’m safe here, man. Go ahead if yuh wants to. Ah’m sleepy."

"Whut you gointuh do if de lake reach heah?"

"Go upstairs."

"S’posing it come up dere?"

"Swim, man. Dat’s all." (18.75-79)

Motor Boat has much more faith in a benevolent God than Tea Cake or Janie. In the end, Motor Boat has amazing luck and sleeps through the storm, never once being touched by the water. Tea Cake and Janie, however, suffer deeply. Tea Cake eventually dies of rabies and Janie suffers the loss of her husband. The different outcomes of Motor Boat and Tea Cake/Janie makes it seem like Janie and Tea Cake made the wrong choice by taking their fate into their own hands.

Quote #18

She [Janie] crept on hands and knees to the piece of roofing and caught hold of it by either side. Immediately the wind lifted both of them and she saw herself sailing off the fill to the right, out and out over the lashing water. She screamed terribly and released the roofing which sailed away as she plunged downward into the water.

"Tea Cake! He heard her and sprang up. Janie was trying to swim but fighting water too hard. He saw a cow swimming slowly towards the fill in an oblique line. A massive built dog was sitting on her shoulders and shivering and growling. The cow was approaching Janie. A few strokes would bring her there.

"Make it tuh de cow and grab hold of her tail! Don’t use yo’ feet. Jus’ yo’ hands is enough. Dat’s right, come on!"

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. (18.93-96)

Tea Cake’s fatal bite by the rabid dog is caused almost directly by his love for Janie. It is their intense, self-sacrificing love that first causes Janie to go for the piece of roofing and later causes Tea Cake to fight the dog. Thus it is their selfless love for each other that destines Tea Cake to death and Janie to a widowed life.

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