Significant Quotations

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“She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid."

When Janie witnesses this scene, she witnesses a scene in nature that symbolizes the perfect union of two entities in nature- in this instance, the bees and the flowers. She realizes that this powerful connection is what she seeks in her partner, and searches for it with each of her husbands. With Logan and Jody she is disappointed and almost finds it with Tea Cake, but his untimely death cuts short any chances of her discovering what might have been. In the end, Janie remains alone and perhaps is meant to be that way.   


“Maybe it's some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don't know nothin' but what we see. So de white man thrown down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. Ad been prayin' duh it tuh be different wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!”  

Mules feature prominently in the book, both as creatures of labor and mockery, and so it is no accident that Nanny compares Negro women to mules. Women have, for most of history, been subject to patriarchal dominance, working as the figurative mules of men, and if being a woman isn't bad enough, being a black woman is worse because she is below both white and black men. So while Nanny's forcing Janie to marry Logan is not very romantic or kind, it only makes sense from Nanny's point of view; as a former slave, she has always been subject to the whims of men above her, and by marrying Janie to Logan, she hopes to have Janie escape the cycle of servitude.


“Janie, Ah hope God may kill me, if Ah'm lyin'. Nobody else on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby. You got de keys to de kingdom.”

Unlike Janie's two previous marriages, Tea Cake shows that he's willing to treat Janie with the respect and love that is long overdue to her. Though perhaps cliché to tell his wife that she's got “the keys to the kingdom,” (i.e. whatever she wants, she can have), it is nonetheless endearing that unlike the brute coldness of Logan and the overbearing possessiveness of Jody, Tea Cake offers Janie the world. And while any relationship is a good balance of give and take, after what Janie's been through, it's nice to have someone pamper her once in a while.   


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