Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
[Janie after Tea Cake has stolen her money and disappeared]: Way late in the morning the thought of Annie Tyler and Who Flung came to pay her a visit. Annie Tyler who at fifty-two had been left a widow with a good home and insurance money.
Mrs. Tyler with her dyed hair, newly straightened and her uncomfortable new false teeth, her leathery skin, blotchy with powder and giggle. Her love affairs, affairs with boys in their late teens or early twenties for all of whom she spent her money on suits of clothes, shoes, watches and things like that and how they all left her as soon as their wants were satisfied. Then when her ready cash was gone, had come Who Flung to denounce his predecessor as a scoundrel and took up around the house himself. It was he who persuaded her to sell her house and come to Tampa with him. The town had seen her limp off. The under-sized high-heel slippers were punishing her tired feet that looked like bunions all over. Her body squeezed and crowded into a tight corset that shoved her middle up under her chin. But she had gone off laughing and sure. As sure as Janie had been.
Then two weeks later the porter and conductor of the north bound local had helped her off the train at Maitland. Hair all gray and black and bluish and reddish in streaks. All the capers that cheap dye could cut was showing in her hair. Those slippers bent and griped just like her work-worn feet. The corset gone and the shaking old woman hanging all over herself. Everything that you could see was hanging. Her chin hung from her ears and rippled down her neck like drapes. Her hanging bosom and stomach and buttocks and legs that draped down over her ankles. She groaned but never giggled.
She was broken and her pride was gone, so she told those who asked what had happened. Who Flung had taken her to a shabby room in a shabby house in a shabby street and promised to marry her next day. They stayed in the room two whole days then she woke up to find Who Flung and her money gone. She got up to stir around and see if she could find him, and found herself too worn out to do much. All she found out was that she was too old a vessel for new wine…. (13.10-14)
This passage is particularly illustrative of the popular idea that women are all artifice and no substance. Annie Tyler uses her money to make herself look pretty in her old, decrepit age. But events work to reveal her true state, one in which "everything…was hanging," a state which decidedly lacks any pride or dignity. However, this passage condemns the shameless deception of young men, manipulating older women just to get their money and a night of pleasure. This passage shows the faults of both genders.
[Man at Tea Cake’s party]: "Ah don’t want nobody handin’ me nothin’. Specially don’t issue me out no rations. Ah always chooses mah rations." He kept right on plowing through the pile uh chicken. So Tea Cake got mad.
"You got mo’ nerve than uh brass monkey. Tell me, what post office did you ever pee in? Ah craves tuh know."
"Whut you mean by dat now?" the fellow asked.
"Ah means dis – it takes jus’ as much nerve tuh cut caper lak dat in uh United States Government Post Office as it do tuh comes pullin’ and haulin’ over any chicken Ah pay for. Hit de ground. Damned if Ah ain’t gointuh try you dis night."
So they all went outside to see if Tea Cake could handle the boogerboo. Tea Cake knocked out two of his teeth, so that man went on off from there. (13.40-44)
The novel shows a clear distinction between the ways males and females respond to conflict. The masculine response is demonstrated in this quote – they solve the problem by duking it out physically. They first exchange insults, implying that the other is less than a man. Then they bring their fists into it and the man that is defeated leaves quietly, in shame. This contrasts sharply with the method of the women in the book, who tend to gossip and snipe verbally at their enemies – as demonstrated by the gossipy women on the porches in Eatonville.
Then two men tried to pick a fight with one another, so Tea Cake said they had to kiss and make up. They didn’t want to do it. They’d rather go to jail, but everybody else liked the idea, so they made ‘em do it. Afterwards, both of them spit and gagged and wiped their mouths with the back of their hands. One went outside and chewed a little grass like a sick dog, he said to keep it from killing him. (13.44)
Men in this novel put so much worth into their identities as "manly" men, or straight males, that the idea of homosexuality frightens and repulses them deeply. The men’s reaction to the two men kissing is demonstrative of this idea, since one of them would rather chew grass like a mindless animal than affect affection for a person of the same sex.