Their Eyes Were Watching God | Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston

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Their Eyes Were Watching God | Chapter 14 | Summary



Tea Cake and Janie move to the Everglades, a swampy, luxuriant, fertile part of Florida known affectionately as "the muck." They go there before the picking season so they can get a place to live before the crowds of pickers arrive. Tea Cake is hired, and his employer offers them a shack by Lake Okeechobee.

While waiting for picking season to begin, Tea Cake plays guitar and teaches Janie how to shoot a gun. They hunt alligators because they can sell the hides and teeth. The quiet times don't last long. Soon, thousands of seasonal migrant workers from Georgia and all over Florida flock to the Everglades. After working all day, the workers spend nights in nightclubs, dancing, drinking, and listening to music.

When the beans are ready to pick, Tea Cake works in the fields while Janie takes care of the house. She cooks, cleans, washes clothes, and hunts rabbits for supper. Sometimes, Tea Cake stops at the house during the day because he misses Janie too much. So Janie decides to join him picking beans so that they can spend more time together. At night the other workers gather at their home to talk, listen to Tea Cake play guitar, tell stories, and gamble. Janie tries to imagine what the prim and proper townspeople of Eatonville would think if they could see her in her denim overalls surrounded by people playing dice. The chapter ends with good-natured teasing as the workers play cards together.


As Tea Cake and Janie settle down, Chapter 14 portrays a happy marriage. The new setting introduced in this chapter, the fertile muck of the Everglades, complements the rich, fruitful relationship growing between Janie and Tea Cake.

This chapter helps the reader understand how Janie's third marriage is different from her two previous marriages, touching on the novel's themes of love and independence. In her first two marriages, Janie shared few activities with either Logan Killicks or Joe Starks. She worked hard but had no say in what she did. In contrast Tea Cake does not put pressure on Janie to do anything and treats her like an equal, a partner. With Tea Cake, Janie makes her own decisions, and she grows through her experiences of learning and doing new things.

In addition, Janie's sense of community has changed. In Eatonville, many of the porch talkers were judgmental and disapproved of her. In the Everglades she has friends who include her in their conversations and encourage her to tell "big stories." Joe Starks's store had been a central gathering place, too, but this place is different for Janie because "she could listen and laugh and even talk some herself if she wanted to." In this way, the motif of silence and speaking advances the themes of independence as well as judgment. Allowed to have an independent voice, Janie feels free to express herself and enjoy the people around her.

Chapter 14 foreshadows events that will occur later in the novel. Hurston hints at things to come when she points out that Janie "got to be a better shot than Tea Cake."

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