Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 10 | Summary



Hezekiah asks permission to leave work early to see a baseball game. Janie agrees and decides to close the store early. Everyone else in Eatonville is going to the game, so business is slow. A half hour before closing, an attractive young man from Orlando stops in the store to buy a pack of cigarettes.

He converses politely with Janie. Since he has gone to the wrong place and missed the ball game, he is in no rush to go home. He asks Janie if she wants to play checkers. Janie tells him that she doesn't know how to play, so the young man offers to show her. Janie feels happy; no one has ever taken the time to teach her how the game is played.

After a game of checkers, the young man offers to buy two cold drinks. Janie lets him buy her a soda and keeps talking to him. She is worried about how he will be able to return to Orlando without a car. The young man assures her that he can walk the seven miles or hop on a train without a ticket if he can't hitch a ride with someone.

Finally, Janie asks for his name. He is Vergible Woods, but his nickname is Tea Cake. The two joke around and flirt until some customers returning from the ball game come into the store. After everyone leaves, Tea Cake helps Janie close the store for the night, accompanies her home in the dark, and bids her goodnight. After his departure, Janie sits quietly on her porch in the dark and watches the rising moon.


Chapter 10 introduces an important major character—Tea Cake Woods. Tea Cake's patience and respect is in stark opposition to Joe Starks, who had, for the most part, denied her any fun. This chapter foreshadows what will be Janie's third romantic relationship. Janie's chance meeting with Tea Cake is so pleasant that she feels "she had known him all her life."

Chapter 10 represents the beginning of another step in Janie's emotional journey while developing the theme of love. Whereas Starks would not teach Janie how to play checkers or freely converse with her, Tea Cake does. Whereas Starks was all business, Tea Cake is playful and fun loving. Janie's attraction to Starks had been practical; he gave her a way out of her marriage to Logan Killicks and provided her with financial stability and status. By contrast, Tea Cake appears to be a man who will be able to meet Janie's emotional needs. He is attractive to Janie because he is good looking and sweet.

At the end of the chapter, the motif of nature suggests how the budding relationship between Janie and Tea Cake may be complementary. The rising moon's "amber fluid" colored the land, "quenching the thirst of the day." This sensual image brings to mind a satisfying, nourishing, positive interaction between the earth and moon and, presumably, between Janie and Tea Cake.

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