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Chapters 10 - 12
Pheoby gingerly asks Janie about Tea Cake. She defends the relationship saying that Tea Cake enjoys her. Although he has no money, he has not asked her for any. She admits that she is through pretending to grieve over Joe and feels it is proper to dress and act normally. Tea Cake likes her in colorful clothes, so that is what she plans to wear; she does not dress for a dead man or the rest of the world. Then Janie tells Pheoby that she and Tea Cake are going to marry.
Pheoby thinks Janie should marry the undertaker, but Janie is determined to take her chances with Tea Cake. He has even bought her a pretty blue dress, shoes, and jewelry for their wedding. They will sell the store and go off somewhere. Janie explains how she has tried life her grandmother's way, and now she is going to try it her own way, living for love.
In this section the plot advances when Tea Cake appears and gently sweeps Janie off her feet. He is playful and encourages playfulness in her. He does not appear to be after her money, for he works to buy things for her. Janie struggles within herself about her attraction to him. Tea Cake is younger, a bit of a mystery, and not very serious; still she feels he may be the honey bee to her pear blossom. There is lots of teasing and joking in this section, much of it filled with sexual imagery.
The people of the town are horrified that Mrs. Mayor has taken up with Tea Cake, whom they believe is far beneath Janie's social level. They gossip about the fact that she has come out of mourning nine months after Joe's death and that she now dresses in bright colors, which Tea Cake encourages her to wear. They also think she is making a fool of herself, trying to act and dress like a young girl again. Hezekiah and Pheoby are both brave enough to warn Janie against Tea Cake. While talking to them, Janie has the opportunity to explain her feelings. She refuses to live a secure life any longer. She wants the opportunity to feel life and love. Her conversations also advance the plot, for it is clear that Janie does not plan to stay in Eatonville. Soon she tells Pheoby that she is going to marry Tea Cake and move away.
Again in these chapters, Hurston's dialogue is vivid and lively, especially when Tea Cake and Janie are flirting with each other. Each has a sharp tongue and a love for phrasing and fun. As Janie says, she has a new language with Tea Cake. There is one mystery left in this section. Mrs. Tyler is mentioned , but Hurston never tells her story.