Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store. And one night he had caught Walter standing behind and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it without Janie knowing what he was doing. Joe was at the back of the store and Walter didn’t see him. He felt like rushing forth with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand. That night he ordered Janie to tie up her hair around the store. That was all. She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others. (6.31)
Beauty, which has always been a mark of distinction for Janie, now works against her. Jealous Joe finds Janie’s beauty a cause for concern, and forces her to hide it lest other men take too many liberties with his wife. Joe’s binding of Janie’s hair is one way of showing ownership; such beauty is his alone and not to be touched or even seen by others.
Daisy is walking a drum tune. You can almost hear it by looking at the way she walks. She is black and she knows that white clothes look good on her, so she wears them for dress up. She’s got those big black eyes with plenty shiny white in them that makes them shine like brand new money and she knows what God gave women eyelashes for, too. Her hair is not what you might call straight. It’s negro hair, but it’s got a kind of white flavor. Like the piece of string out of a ham. It’s not ham at all, but it’s been around ham and got the flavor. It was spread down thick and heavy over her shoulders and looked just right under a big white hat. (6.147)
This passage shows women using their appearances to the best of their ability to get attention. Daisy specifically wears white because she knows it’s attractive on her. Notice that again, beauty is linked to whiteness (or at least white’s purity in contrast to blackness), especially in Daisy’s hair.
[Janie]: "Stop mixin’ up mah doings wid mah looks, Jody. When you git through tellin’ me how tuh cut uh plug uh tobacco, then you kin tell me whether mah behind is on straight or not." (7.14)
Janie’s admonishment that Joe to "stop mixin’ up [her] doings wid [her] looks" points out one way that men try to keep women down – by assuming that their good looks must somehow compromise their intelligence. Joe might also think that if Janie doesn’t know how beautiful she is, she won’t think she can get a better man and run away with him. This is reminiscent of Logan Killicks when he told Janie that no other man but him could possibly want her, even though he knew he was lying.