Their Eyes Were Watching God
Gender Quotes Page 12
How we cite our quotes:
[Tea Cake]: "Put dat two hundred back wid de rest, Janie. Mah dice. Ah no need no assistance tuh help me feed mah woman. From now on, you gointuh eat whutever mah money can buy uh and wear de same. When Ah ain’t got nothin’ you don’t git nothin’."
"Dat’s all right wid me." (13.76-77)
Tea Cake demonstrates his strong sense of masculinity by making "[his] woman," Janie, financially dependent on him. He takes pride in being able to provide for a woman who has lived such a privileged life. Although Janie never seems conflicted about living a poor life with Tea Cake, she kind of has to agree to live by what he provides or severely damage his pride.
Tea Cake made her [Janie] shoot at little things just to give her good aim. Pistol and shot gun and rifle. It got so the others stood around and watched them. Some of the men would beg for a shot at the target themselves. It was the most exciting thing on the muck. Better than the jook and the pool-room unless some special band was playing for a dance. And the thing that got everybody was the way Janie caught on. She got to the place she could shoot a hawk out of a pine tree and not tear him up. Shoot his head off. She got to be a better shot than Tea Cake. (14.14)
The idea of a woman handling weapons is a scandalous idea in the post-Civil War South. Its shock value draws many bystanders to witness this breach of gender barriers. By wielding a gun, Janie is taking on a definitively masculine role since she can now attack others and defend herself. The fact that Tea Cake teaches her how to shoot shows that he, unlike Joe, is not afraid of Janie becoming more independent than the average woman.
So the very next morning Janie got ready to pick beans along with Tea Cake. There was a suppressed murmur when she picked up a basket and went to work. She was already getting to be a special case on the muck. It was generally assumed that she thought herself too good to work like the rest of the women and that Tea Cake "pomped her up tuh dat." But all day long the romping and playing they carried on behind the boss’s back made her popular right away. It got the whole field to playing off and on. Then Tea Cake would help get supper afterwards. (14.27)
Here, both Janie and Tea Cake break gender boundaries. Janie, by coming out onto the fields to work like the other migrant men and women, shows that she can survive in a tough world, despite her prim and pampered life. By getting her hands dirty, Janie takes on the hard and dirty work often reserved for men. In return, Tea Cake "helps" her "get supper afterwards," meaning that Tea Cake forays into the feminine realm of cooking and serving. Both sacrifice typical gender roles for the sake of being with each other and expressing their love for one another.