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The next morning Janie asked like a woman, "You still love ole Nunkie?"
"Naw, never did, and you know it too. Ah didn’t want her."
"Yeah, you did." She didn’t say this because she believed it. She wanted to hear his denial. She had to crow over the fallen Nunkie. (15.15-17)
Janie, in a gesture that some might call petty, rejoices in her triumph over Nunkie. Even though she is secure in her knowledge of Tea Cake’s love and devotion to her, she still takes pride in overcoming someone who was once a threat to her and once a cause for jealousy.
Still and all, jealousies arose now and then on both sides. When Mrs. Turner’s brother came and she brought him over to be introduced, Tea Cake had a brainstorm. Before the week was over he had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss. (17.1)
Tea Cake’s jealousy, like Janie’s in previous chapters, manifests itself physically. To ensure his sole ownership of Janie, Tea Cake whips her because it "relieve[s] the awful fear inside him" that her heart might belong to another man. Essentially, jealousy really brings out the worst in Tea Cake; it turns him into a bit of a Joe Starks and Logan Killicks, thinking he needs to be the "boss" of Janie and possesses her (like an object) in order to keep her with him.
"Janie, whut is dat Tuner woman’s brother doin’ back on de muck?"
"Ah don’t know, Tea Cake. Didn’t even knowed he wuz back."
"Accordin’ tuh mah notion, you did. Whut you slip off from me just now for?"
"Tea Cake, Ah don’t lak you astin’ me no sich question. Dat shows how sick you is sho nuff. You’se jealous ‘thout me givin’ you cause."
"Well, whut didja slip off from de house ‘thout tellin’ me you wuz goin’. You ain’t never done dat befo’."
"Dat wuz cause Ah wuz tryin’ not tuh let yuh worry ‘bout yo’ condition. De doctah sent after some mo’ medicine and Ah went tuh see if it come." (19.117-122)
Tea Cake’s little store of natural jealousy is amplified and exaggerated by the rabies. No matter what Janie tells him, no matter how reasonable her alibi is, he won’t listen. He fixates obsessively on the idea that Janie is cheating on him. Eventually, his jealousy is so strong and un-tempered by rational and humane thought (because of the disease) that he tries to kill her.