checker game they played
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Janie's journey in the novel is very much one of a woman coming to love and respect herself so as to gain independence. Her first two relationships are stifling and reflect the patriarchy of her world. She is not allowed to speak her mind and is expected to occupy herself with proscribed duties. One thing she cannot do is join in the many checkers games that the men engage in. Tea Cake is a huge step for Janie because he encourages her to express herself in many different ways. One of these is by not only allowing her to engage in checkers, but to actually play the game with her. It is significant as a symbol of the new independence her relationship with Tea Cake will lead her to accept.