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Chapter 17

A lot of the old crowd was back, but there are some new folks too. Those women who don't know better make passes at Tea Cake, and Janie gets a lot of attention from men. Mrs. Turner brings her brother over to meet Janie, and Tea Cake nearly loses his mind with jealousy. Before the week was over he whips Janie. Not because she had done anything wrong, but because he was afraid. It wasn't brutal, just enough to show her who was boss. Everyone talks about it next day on the fields; both the men and the women looking on are jealous: the women from the way he pampers her and the men because of the way she clings to him. One man tells Tea Cake admiringly that you could see every place he had hit her. Another man notes that his woman would never put up with that treatment. Tea Cake tells them it was really to get back at Mrs. Turner, and tells them about her racist attitudes. They agree to help him get revenge on Mrs. Turner.

Saturday afternoon, everyone gets paid and starts to have a good time; the police have their hands full dealing with all the rowdy drunks. Two men, Dick Sterrett and Coodemay, arrive at Mrs. Turner's eating house to find it already full to the limit. Tea Cake is among those who are there. When they try to order food, Mrs. Turner tells them there's nowhere to sit, so they'll have to wait. When the food arrives, there's still nowhere to set their food, and the two men drunkenly begin to fight over a single chair. Tea Cake tries to calm them down, saying Mrs. Turner is the nicest woman on the muck and that they should behave themselves (at this, the reader realizes something is afoot). In his over-zealous protection of Mrs. Turner's honor, Tea Cake touches off a full-scale riot, which virtually demolishes her place. When she finally looks up, she sees her husband over in the corner, sitting and watching. She shrilly berates him for not helping, and argues her son and brother would have behaved more manfully. In fact, her son and brother had been warned away from the café and had already run scared out of town. Monday morning, the two chief offenders, Coodemay and Sterrett beg her pardon, offer her five dollars apiece and apologize for their "drunken" behavior.

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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