Treacherous Trip Through The Glades Jenny and Tea Cake

After a treacherous hike through the ‘Glades, Janie and Tea Cake are flooded with relief. They were able to escape a massive hurricane with no injuries other than a small dog bite to Tea Cake. They rest for a few days, and then decide to return back to the muck. Suddenly, Tea Cake comes down with a mysterious illness, and after a brief doctor’s visit, one of the most heartbreaking plot twists of the entire novel is revealed; Tea Cake has rabies, and will almost certainly be dead within a matter of days.

Janie is of course, devastated. In this passage, she rapidly transitions from one stage of grief to the next, going from self pity to denial to acceptance all in the matter of a few lines. The rapidity of these changes perfectly capture Janie’s mental state; confused. She doesn’t know what to feel, what to do, or how to act.

Her whole world just came crashing down around her, and here she is, alone once again.

In her desperation for answers, she turns to God. This is significant because her turning to God puts into perspective just how horrifying this situation is for her. The last time we saw her turn to God was when she was in the hurricane. Specifically, she looks up at God when the hurricane is on the verge of flooding her entire house and she is truly fearful for herself and Tea Cake’s well being. The fact that she turns to God again in this situation shows the incredible amount of distress she must be in.

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The meaning of this moment within the larger context of the novel is that it is Janie’s breaking point. Until now, Janie had overcome so much; the loss of her grandmother, the abuse of two husbands, and a hurricane. In the face of whatever obstacles life threw at her, Janie showed strength and resilience. However, this time is different. When she learns she’s going to lose Tea Cake, she doesn’t know what to do, she just walks outside, unable to understand why this had to happen to her. Janie’s inability to react clearly shows that she is overwhelmed.The death of Tea Cake isn’t like everything else that’s happened to her, this is an obstacle she doesn’t know how to overcome.

However, what’s particularly striking about this passage was not how it displayed Janie’s grief or distress, but rather the structure of the passage itself. It starts off with Janie being in a state of despair, but transitions into her getting a rush of optimism. She starts to think that maybe everything will be okay, and that his rabies is just a “tease”. She thinks that God has some kind of master plan that will end with Tea Cake back in good health, and she even starts looking for signs to prove this theory. However, at the end of the passage, she realizes that there aren’t any signs, prompting her to snap out of her optimistic daydream and go back into the house. She does this because she has come to stark realization; there is no master plan. After going through an initial period of despair then optimism, she comes back to reality. She realizes that God won’t send down some miraculous turn of events to save Tea Cake. In other words, it is at this point in the novel that she realizes that her and Tea Cake’s story won’t have a happy ending.

The different reactions and emotions that Janie goes through in accepting that Tea Cake is going to die reminds me of a similar moment in my own life, when my grandfather got sick. Initially, I had a misguided sense of hopefulness. Even though I knew he was elderly and could see how worried my parents were, I just assumed that he would get better and things would go back to normal. I never really considered the possibility that things wouldn’t end well. It was only in the days leading up to his death that my optimism switched to fear, and reality finally set in. I see this same reaction in Janie when the doctor her tells her about Tea Cake’s condition.. Like me, her first response was not acceptance, but rather the irrational expectation that somehow things would get better. The only difference was that my optimism arose from sheer naivety, and hers came from a baseless assumption that God was simply teasing her.

However, in both my story and hers, we realize the graveness of the situation at the end. For me, it was in the days leading up to his death, when it occurred to me that with his condition there was only one way things could end. For Janie, it was the realization that God wasn’t sending her any signs, and that her whole theory about Tea Cake’s sickness being one big joke from God was false. Initially, the parallels I saw between my first encounter with death, and Janie’s reactions to it were what made the passage stand out to me. However, as I analyzed it I also began to think about Janie’s line of questioning at the beginning of the passage, where she wonders why God is going to let Tea Cake die. This question of “why” is something that I also have when I look at the world around me. For example, when I watch the news on TV, I always hear about people in other countries getting killed, starving to death and dying of totally preventable diseases.

I begin to go down the same line of questioning as her, why is the world like this? As I try to figure it out, I find I’m left only with more questions. Why do so many people suffer while we live lives of luxury? Why can I walk into a supermarket with food stacked all the way to the ceiling when so many people can’t even get a bite to eat? Why is the world so unfair? Like Janie wondering why God is letting Tea Cake get sick, I don’t have the answers to these questions. Just as all Janie can do is “ache and wait”, all I can do is ponder why the world is this way, powerless to create any kind of meaningful change. And so, this is why the passage resonates with me. Like Janie in the passage, I have had experiences with death where my reaction was a foolish sense of optimism, and reality slowly set in. And also like Janie, I have some thoughts and questions about the world that take on a somewhat similar tone to the questions Janie has for God.

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Treacherous Trip Through The Glades Jenny and Tea Cake. (2022, Apr 30). Retrieved from

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