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[Janie]: "Dey gointuh make ‘miration ‘cause mah love didn’t work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore." (20.7)
Janie lectures Pheoby that love is not a fixed thing that is the same for everyone who experiences it. Instead it is as fluid and changing as the sea, only shaped by the shores (or men) it meets. Society has a normative and inflexible idea of what love is, when actual love is different for everyone.
[Janie to Mrs. Turner]: "Naw, mah husband didn’t had nothin’ but hisself. He’s easy tuh love if you mess round ‘im. Ah loves ‘im."
"Why you, Mis’ Woods! Ah don’t b’lieve it. You’se jus’ sorter hypnotized, dat’s all."
"Naw, it’s real. Ah couldn’t stand it if he wuz tuh quit me. Don’t know whut Ah’d do. . He kin take most any lil thing and make summertime out of it when times is dull. Then we lives offa dat happiness he made till some mo’ happiness come along." (16.11-13)
Mrs. Turner wants to turn Janie’s eyes and affection away from Tea Cake and toward her brother. She thinks her love for Tea Cake is but a sort of hypnosis that is only effective because Janie has not met men of real quality yet. But Janie is staunch in her love and loyalty to Tea Cake.
[Janie]: "Still and all you went off and left me all day and all night."
[Tea Cake]: "Twasn’t ‘cause Ah wanted tuh stay off lak day, and it sho Lawd, wuzn’t no woman. If you didn’t have de power tuh hold me and hold me tight, Ah wouldn’t be callin’ yuh Mis’ Woods. Ah met plenty women before Ah knowed you tuh talk tuh. You’se de onliest woman in de world Ah ever even mentioned gittin married tuh. You bein’ older don’t make no difference. Don’t never consider dat no mo’. If Ah ever gits tuh messin’ round another woman it won’t be on account of her age. It’ll be because she got me in de same way you got me – so Ah can’t help mahself." (13.26-27)
Tea Cake declares his love and faithfulness to Janie. He comes out and states that Janie’s age is of no consequence to him. Tea Cake’s last sentence renders love as some sort of inexplicable force that mortal men cannot resist. Janie should be especially responsive to this because she has been swept away by passion before, first under the pear tree of her youth and now by Tea Cake.