Plot Overview: Chapters 10-20

Chapter 10
When Janie first meets Tea Cake, the two play checkers on the front porch of the store. This interaction intrigues Janie because no man has ever asked her to play checkers before. The two continue to play checkers and flirt with one another until the store closes. When it comes time for Janie to close up the store, Tea Cake offers to do it for her which is something new to Janie. Before, Joe would expect Janie to complete this strenuous task all by herself, even though he knew how difficult it was for her. While Tea Cake has offered to take this load off of her hands and allows her to go home.

Chapter 11
Tea Cake leaves the store and does not return until almost a week later. Over this time, Janie has decided to act rude towards Tea Cake because she feels he is just messing with her emotions and is not serious. However this plan was defeated once Tea Cake used his joking and light hearted personality to win a spot back in Janie’s heart. The two go fishing during the night and enjoy each other’s company to end the night on a good note. The next morning, Hezekiah expresses to Janie that he feels that she is too high of a social class to be fooling around with Tea Cake; but she strongly disagrees. While Tea Cake is over Janie’s house, he slips up and says some things that make Janie believe he is in fact messing around with other woman and she is just another one of his “lady friends”. She asks for him to leave, tells him that there is too big of an age difference between the two of them and that how he feels at the moment is just his “night thoughts”. Two days later, Tea Cake ventures to Janie’s house early in the morning and tells her his “day thoughts”. He declared his love for Janie and that she was the only women he was interested in. The two make plans to make their relationship know or public at the upcoming Sunday church picnic.

Chapter 12
The town is in disapproval of Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship because they think Tea Cake is solely after Janie’s money, Janie is too old to be with someone as young as Tea Cake and also because many feel she should still be grieving over her deceased husband. Pheoby is pressured into confronting Janie with the issue and making sure she isn’t making wrong, naïve decisions. Pheoby makes sure to remind Janie of the story of Annie Tyler, an older woman who ran off with a youngster to another town and come to find out the young man was only using her for her money. Pheoby also agrees with Hezekiah’s opinion of Janie being in too high of a social class to be seeing someone like Tea Cake. However Janie has already made plans to sell her store, move to Jacksonville with Tea Cake and get married. She is done living her life as her grandmother wanted her to and is now focused on living how she wants to live the remaining years of her life.

Chapter 13
Janie and Tea Cake move to Jacksonville and in no time at all, get married. In case of an emergency, Janie pins $200 to the inside of her shirt and doesn’t tell Tea Cake about it. One morning, Tea Cake claims he is going to get some fish for breakfast but doesn’t return until days after. While pondering reasons why Tea Cake could be taking so long, Janie notices that her money is gone. Her first instinct is that Tea Cake was, in fact, after her money all along and had now left her with a broken heart and an empty wallet. Upon his return, Tea Cake comes home to a worried and distraught Janie. She questions him about his whereabouts and finds out that he took her money to throw a party. He bought fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and a guitar to entertain the guests at his party. Janie becomes upset, not because he took the money, but because he did not bother to invite her to his party. However, Tea Cake tells Janie that he did not want to invite her because he was afraid she would become interested in another man at the party and eventually leave him. To return the money he took, Tea Cake goes out gambling and does in fact win the money back. He tells Janie that she needs to put that money in the bank and that from now on, whatever he makes is what they will survive on. In the end, the newly wed couple moves to the Everglades of Florida, or better known as the muck.

Chapter 14
“To Janie’s strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new.” Janie was overwhelmed with the new scenery of the Everglades: big beans, big cane, big weeds, big Lake Okeechobee, big everything. While on the muck, Janie experienced new things that she had never experienced before. Things like planting beans, learning how to shoot a gun and going hunting for game with her husband. Tea Cake misses Janie while he is away working in the fields and frequently returns to the house to visit her. So to alleviate this problem, Janie throws on her blue overalls and goes to work in the fields along with her husband. While working in the field, Janie thinks to herself, “What would Eatonville think of me working in the dirt fields in overalls?” They would be surprised and some appalled to see former Mrs. Mayor Starks doing the work of “common folk”.

Chapter 15
Since working in the field, Janie has noticed Tea Cake becoming more and more flirtatious with another field worker named Nunkie. She does not trust her around her husband and sometimes feels as if the two are having a secret affair. One day, she catches the two play wrestling in the cane patch and chases after Nunkie in hopes of doing harm to her but is not successful. Janie returns home in a rage and she and Tea Cake begin to argue. The argument becomes slightly physical and eventually turns into strong passion. The next morning, the two wake up and laugh light heartedly about the whole incident.

Chapter 16
As the end of the planting season approaches, the couple decides to stay in Jacksonville. Janie meets a new social acquaintance named Mrs. Turner. Mrs. Turner is known for talking down or bad about black people, especially those of Jacksonville. She is very proud of her white characteristics and feels she is superior to all her fellow African Americans in the town. She is not fond of Tea Cake and tells Janie that she should, in fact, marry her brother. Tea Cake overhears their entire conversation and makes up in his mind to speak to Mrs. Turner’s husband about her unwarranted actions. However, when he gets his opportunity he decides to side with his better judgment; he almost feels sorry for Mr. Turner because he is dominated by his wife and is depressed by the lost of multiple children. So instead Tea Cake advises Janie that she should not speak or associate herself with Mrs. Turner anymore, however Mrs. Turner does not catch on. She feels Janie’s avoidance is natural because Janie is superior to her due to her white characteristics (long, straight hair, fair skin) and has the right to act as she wishes. 

Chapter 17
When Tea Cake found out about Mrs. Turner’s brother coming into town, he had to find away to keep the situation under control. So, to show that he still has control over Janie, Tea Cake beats or spanks Janie. Friends and men who work alongside Tea Cake are envious of his control of Janie and her reaction to her beating. When the townsmen found out that Mrs. Turner looked down on them because of the color of their skin, they banned together and formed a plan to get rid of her without using violence. So one night after work, the men got drunk and went over to Mrs. Turner’s diner to get something to eat. A fight was purposefully initiated and the entire restaurant was trashed, covered in broken glass, smashed tables, etc. Mrs. Turner was so flabbergasted by the occurrence and felt so helpless that she insisted to her husband that they move to where people acted more “civilized”.

Chapter 18
Many of the Native Americans who lived in Jacksonville began relocate because they sensed that a bad hurricane was coming. Initially many of the townspeople ignored there proactive action and kept on as if it were a normal day. However, as conditions worsened more and more, townspeople began to move towards Palm Beach, where it was rumored to be safer and far away from harm. The remaining members of the town came to Tea Cake’s house for a party until it was interrupted by strong winds and storm conditions that scared many of the attendees. Within hours of the ending of the party, the hurricane had it and the water from Lake Okeechobee was starting to flood the town. Janie, Tea Cake and Motor Boat grabbed the essentials they needed, linked arms and walked in the strong winds towards higher ground. The three came across an abandoned on a high hill where they thought it would be safe to ride out the storm. However they were not that lucky, and had to find some place else because flood water was reaching the house at rapid speeds. Though Motor Boat stayed behind to get sleep, Janie and Tea Cake tried to swim in the raging flood waters to higher ground. While trying to get some cover from the heavy rains, Janie is blown into the flood waters and is forced to hang on to a cow’s tail because she is not able to swim. However she is attacked by a vicious dog and Tea Cake is forced to come to her rescue, not without being bit in the face by the dog. Once the two get to Palm Beach, Janie continuously thanks Tea Cake for saving her life.

Chapter 19
The aftermath of the hurricane was devastating and dead bodies were laying everywhere. While out looking for work, against Janie’s request, Tea Cake is forced by two white men to help bury dead bodies. The white bodies are placed in wood coffins while blacks are covered with lye and buried in a trench. After secretly escaping from the clutches of the white men, Tea Cake convinces Janie that they leave immediately from the racist town of Palm Beach and head back to Jacksonville. Weeks later, Tea Cake comes home from work complaining of excruciating headaches, just one of his many symptoms to follow. He also lost his appetite, had “choking fits” when he slept at night and wasn’t able to drink water without gagging. Janie asks for Dr. Simmons’s help and comes to find out that Tea Cake has rabies. He also informs her that it is too late to offer full treatment of the disease but while search for medicine in Palm Beach to ease his symptoms. The rabies causes Tea Cake to become delusional and he starts to imagine that Janie is cheating on him with Mrs. Turner’s brother. While he’s out of his room, Janie discovers that Tea Cake has a loaded pistol under his bead and rearranges the bullets so she will have to make react if he tries to use it on her. One day Tea Cake becomes so enraged that he tries to shoot Janie, which forces Janie to shoot him before he tries to kill her. That same day, she is put on trial for murdering her husband and all her old friends have turned against her. The only person on her side is Dr. Simmons but his testimony, combined with her story of their love and why she did what she did, helped persuade the jury that she was in fact not guilty. The chapter ends with Janie holding a “royal” funeral for her beloved husband, Tea Cake.

Chapter 20
The townsmen feel sorry for the way they treated Janie during the trial and to ease the tension, they run Mrs. Turner’s brother out of town. Without Tea Cake, Janie feels that there is no reason to stay in Jacksonville and makes arrangements to move back to Eatonville. The only thing she takes with her is a pack of planting seeds that belonged to Tea Cake, to remember him by and hopefully plant one day in his remembrance. Janie ends her “storytelling session” with Pheoby and tells her that she does not care what the other townspeople think about her. She has lived out her dream and has loved like many others have never experienced. There are times when she feels miserable about how things played out with Tea Cake but then she remembers that Tea Cake lives on inside of her memories and that he will always be with her.