Janie meets Tea Cake about eight months after Joe’s death, and they immediately hit it off. He brings something Janie has never seen in a man before—a carefree, joking attitude and a disregard for social class. He has no problem hanging out with blue-collar workers, and this makes Janie comfortable around them, too.
He courts Janie slowly and sporadically, showing up randomly and asking her to do something wild with him—such as fishing by moonlight—then disappearing for several days on end.
Eventually, Janie sells the store and leaves for Jacksonville to marry Tea Cake.
Tea Cake and Janie get married.
In Jacksonville, Janie has her first scare. She wakes up one morning to find Tea Cake gone and her secret $200 stash missing. Janie fears that she has misjudged Tea Cake’s character. However, Tea Cake comes back late that night and tells her the whole truth. He did indeed take her money, but not out of spite. He’d just never had so much money in his life before, and he wanted to throw a party. So, he did and used up all the money. He claims he wanted to come back and grab Janie to come have fun with him, but he was scared she wouldn’t come mingle with the common folks. Janie forgives him and assures him she’ll go anywhere he does.
Tea Cake leaves to win back Janie’s $200 through gambling. He succeeds, even making a profit, but not without a price. He’s stabbed by a guy who accuses him of cheating at dice.
Tea Cake recovers, and he and Janie move to the Everglades, where they find work in the bean fields. Janie is happy. She works alongside Tea Cake in the fields and is allowed the freedom to play, dance, and gossip with her neighbors as much as she wants.
Janie learns how it feels to be jealous. Tea Cake flirts far too much with a giggly younger girl named Nunkie. One day, when Tea Cake and Nunkie both go missing, Janie finds them together in the cane fields, play-fighting a bit too physically. She drives Nunkie away.
Tea Cake comes home shame-faced. Janie even tries to assault Tea Cake, but he holds her back and they eventually make up in a steamy night of lovemaking.
In the morning, Tea Cake reaffirms his love for Janie and claims he was never interested in Nunkie.
As soon as the harvest season is over, the migrant workers of the Everglades leave, and Janie’s only remaining company is Mrs. Turner, a mulatto woman who thinks highly of herself because of her white blood. She worships everything white and despises anything black, including Tea Cake.
Because Mrs. Turner has plans to destroy Janie’s marriage by introducing Janie to her brother, Tea Cake hates her.
Tea Cake conspires with Sop-de-Bottom to drive the Turners from the Everglades. They stage a fight at Mrs. Turner’s eatery and destroy everything in their brawl. Frustrated, Mrs. Turner decides to return to Miami.
After this humorous incident, a devastating hurricane arrives in the Everglades. Tea Cake could have avoided it had he listened to his friends, but he decides to ignore the warning signs and stay, with the majority of the workers.
Tea Cake and Janie are in a perilous situation when the hurricane finally does hit. His heroics get them out alive, but not before Janie nearly drowns and Tea Cake gets bitten by a rabid dog while trying to save her.
A month later, Tea Cake exhibits signs of rabies. He is eventually diagnosed with the illness, but only Janie knows it is fatal.
Tea Cake becomes increasingly and unaccountably jealous when Janie is out of his sight.
Tea Cake becomes deranged and pulls a gun on his wife. He and Janie end up facing off, with guns pointed at each other. Tea Cake is driven by the disease within him, and Janie shoots out of self-defense. He dies in her arms—biting her arm—and Janie mourns his death.