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Chapter 16

The planting and picking season ends, but Tea Cake and Janie decide to stay around on the off-season. Janie becomes friendly with a woman named Mrs. Turner; this woman carries her body strangely, which leads Tea Cake, who doesn't like her much, to say she looks like a cow from behind. Mrs. Turner likes being friends with Janie because Janie is light-skinned and has other white features, which Mrs. Turner values above all else. She doesn't understand why a woman so light and beautiful as Janie would marry a man as dark as Tea Cake. She tells Janie so too; she also thinks Janie shouldn't spend time with Tea Cake's friends, whom she calls "common niggers."

Janie says she considers those people to be her friends, because she enjoys spending time with them. Mrs. Turner just thinks anything black, by definition, is ugly: "Who want any lil ole black baby layin' up in de baby buggy lookin' lak uh fly in buttermilk?" She really goes on a tirade, which completely bewilders Janie, who doesn't know what to say. Mrs. Turner continues: she's furious that she's lumped together with all these people she considers inferior. She tells Janie she wants her to meet her brother, who, among other things, read a paper that criticized Booker T. Washington. This confuses Janie more, since she thought Washington was a great man. But she just tells Mrs. Turner she doesn't need to meet new men, since she's already married.

She finally leaves, and Janie discovers Tea Cake is sitting in the kitchen, having heard part of her conversation. He's furious, but Janie reassures him she doesn't believe any of Mrs. Turner's garbage. Tea Cake vows to get back at Mrs. Turner.

He asks Janie to act coldly towards Mrs. Turner, to discourage her from coming around. But this has no effect, as Mrs. Turner is so honored by Janie's acquaintance. In fact, in her idea of the pecking order in the world, it was only appropriate that someone as white as Janie should treat her badly, because it only confirms her worldview. These beliefs of hers are like a religion, where she worships Caucasian characteristics over all else. But her criticism doesn't affect Janie and Tea Cake all that much, and before they knew it the next planting season was on them.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20


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