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[Janie]: "She was borned in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam look lak uh might fine thing tuh her. Dat’s whut she wanted for me – don’t keer whut it cost. Git up on uh high chair and sit dere. She didn’t have time tuh think whut tuh do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin’. De object wuz tuh git dere. So Ah got up on de high stool lak she told me, but Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere." (12.32)
Janie’s and Nanny’s differing outlooks on life and women’s freedom stem from their backgrounds. For Nanny who’s early life was spent in slavery, idleness is freedom. For Janie, on the other hand, feels trapped doing nothing but sitting up on high and looking pretty.
"Oh, Ah know you don’t talk. We ain’t shame faced. We jus’ ain’t ready tuh make no big kerflommouck as yet." (12.38)
Janie defends her decision to keep quiet about her relationship with Tea Cake because she doesn’t want to announce it to the whole town yet. Here, you get the sense that no matter how little credit Janie gives to the porch gossips, she is influenced by their talk and doesn’t want their gossip to interfere with her happy relationship.
It was after the picnic that the town began to notice things and got mad. Tea Cake and Mrs. Mayor Starks! All the men that she could get, and fooling with somebody like Tea Cake! Another thing, Joe Starks hadn’t been dead but nine months and here she goes sashaying off to a picnic in pink linen. Done quit attending church, like she used to. Gone off to Sanford in a car with Tea Cake and her all dressed in blue! It was a shame. Done took to high heel slippers and a ten dollar hat! Looking like some young girl, always in blue because Tea Cake told her to wear it. Poor Joe Starks. Bet he turns over in his grave every day. Tea Cake and Janie gone hunting. Tea Cake and Janie gone fishing. Tea Cake and Janie gone to Orlando to the movies. Tea Cake and Janie gone to a dance. Tea Cake making flower beds in Janie’s yard and seeding the garden for her. Chopping down that tree she never did like by the dining room window. All those signs of possession. (12.1)
The town, already scandalized by Janie’s interest in Tea Cake, hates her for associating so intimately and publicly with Tea Cake. Because they adored Joe Starks as their mayor, they find Janie’s flirting around scandalous. It’s almost like they’re being jealous for Joe Starks when they really have no right to be