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[Pheoby]: "Gal, you sho looks good. You looks like youse yo’ own daughter." They both laughed. "Even wid dem overhalls on, you shows yo’ womanhood." (1.30)
Even at age forty and with men’s clothing on, Janie seems to be attractive enough to draw the gaze of not only her best friend but also the jealous gossipers on the porch. Pheoby shows the sincerity of her friendship by complimenting to Janie how good she looks, instead of attacking her with bitter words. Although Pheoby might envy Janie’s appearance at some subconscious level, she does not let it become so all-consuming that it compromises their friendship.
So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment. (1.3)
It is significant that Janie’s story begins with death because her life revolves around metaphoric deaths and rebirths. Because death is the start of the novel, it clues us into the fact that death is also generally a new beginning for Janie. Death is also related to judgment – but who are the dead bodies judging, themselves or others?
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. (1.1-2)
For men, dreams are lofty and constantly out of reach. Men have no problem distinguishing reality from illusion. Women, on the other hand, live their dreams. They forget aspects of their lives that contradict their dreams such that they believe that their dreams are reality. Thus, women live far more idealistically than men. However, from Janie’s experience, we know that occasionally Janie realizes that her dream has died. She then seems to move on to live in another dream.