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"Tea Cake" (Vergible Woods)
Tea Cake is the man who knows what love is. He is not a man of wealth or power, but is a person who knows how to enjoy life and live happily among his peers. Tea Cake is not perfect, as seen when he takes Janie's two hundred dollars without telling her, beats Janie, and exercises poor judgment in several other situations; but he tries to live life to the fullest, working hard, loving sincerely, listening to others and learning from them, and putting his whole self into his actions. Physically, Tea Cake is never really described, except that he is darker in color than Janie. Looks, however, are not important to Janie; she cares about Tea Cake's being.
Tea Cake is a man without roots until Janie enters his life. He is a musician and a gambler, and a hard worker who moves from place to place. He is the type of man that Janie's Nanny warned her against. Janie does not care that Tea Cake is twelve years younger than she and has an unstable past and no money. She enjoys him and adores the fact that he loves her. She appreciates that he includes her in his life, teaching her to play checkers and to shoot a gun and allowing her to work next to him. Other people care for Tea Cake as well; he seems to be a natural leader. The people of the muck naturally flock to his house, almost as if it were a community center. Although his death in some ways mirrors Joe Starks', it is clear that Tea Cake's paranoia and violence are results of rabies, not a lifetime of disappointment and missed opportunities. Even when Tea Cake is dead, the vibrancy of his life is kept alive in Janie.
Much like a Greek chorus or a singing refrain, the groups of people around Janie comment regularly on the action. Hurston's love of folklore works to make these groups of commentators believable, lively, and often humorous. The porchsitters in Eatonville are portrayed as stable, sedentary, dull, and conservative. They never really accept Janie as one of them. They are very different from the muck folks, who live more hand-to-mouth, speak their opinions openly, accept people for who they are, and have a lot of fun. They quickly warm to Janie and allow her to become a part of their camaraderie. It is ironic that the people in the muck are really much nicer that the proper folk from town.