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[Nanny]: "Tain’t Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have, baby, it’s protection. Ah ain’t gittin’ ole honey. Ah’m done ole. One mornin’ soon, now, de angel wid de sword is gointuh stop by here. De day and de hour is hid from me, but it won’t be long. Ah ast de Lawd when you was uh infant in mah arms to let me stay here till you got grown. He done spared me to see de day. Mah daily prayer now is tuh let dese golden moments rolls on a few days longer till Ah see you safe in life.
"Lemme wait, Nanny, please, jus’ a lil bit mo’."
"Don’t think Ah don’t feel wid you, Janie, ‘cause Ah do. Ah couldn’t love yuh no more if Ah had uh felt yo’ birth pains mahself. Fact uh de matter, Ah loves yuh a whole heap more’n Ah do yo’ mama, de one Ah did birth. But you got to take in consideration you ain’t no everyday chile like most of ‘em. You ain’t got no papa, you might jus’ as well say no mama, for de good she do yuh. You ain’t got nobody but me. And mah head is ole and tilted towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo’self. De thought uh you bein’ kicked around from pillar tuh post is a hurtin’ thing. Every tear you drop squeezes a cup uh blood outa mah heart. Ah got tuh try and do for you befo’ mah head is cold." (2.52-54)
Nanny isn’t afraid of death, but afraid of having unfinished business when she does die. She considers her life satisfactory except for Janie’s single status; she refers to her dying days as "golden moments." Nanny’s attitude toward death is markedly different than Joe Starks’s, who is terrified of death and refuses to believe he is dying. In Joe’s case, maybe his fear stems from dissatisfaction with his life.
[Nanny]: "Ah was born back in slavery so it wasn’t for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat’s one of de hold-backs of slavery. But nothing can’t stop you from wishin’. You can’t beat nobody down so low till you can rob’ em of they will. Ah didn’t want to be used for a work-ox and a brood-sow and Ah didn’t want mah daughter used dat way neither. It sho wasn’t mah will for things to happen lak they did. Ah even hated de way you was born. But, all de same Ah said thank God, Ah got another chance. Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high, but they wasn’t no pulpit for me. Freedom found me wid a baby daughter in mah arms, so Ah said Ah’d take a broom and a cook-pot and throw up a highway through de wilderness for her. She would expound what Ah felt. But somehow she got lost offa de highway and next thing Ah knowed here you was in de world. So whilst Ah was tenin’ you of nights Ah said Ah’d save de text for you. Ah been waitin’ a long time, Janie, but nothin’ Ah been through ain’t too much if you just take a stand on high ground lak Ah dreamed." (2.56)
Nanny speaks of something deeper than simple pride in the human spirit when she talks about the indomitable will of the black slaves. Nanny’s faculty of "nothing can’t stop you from wishin’" might be described in universal terms as human dignity. She links this concept of dignity with Janie’s upbringing, trying to teach her to stand on "high ground" and "preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high." This is her ultimate goal for Janie, but she does not take into account Janie’s free will.
Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches. (2.1)
When beginning her story, Janie’s memories are shaped like a tree. This is appropriate because Janie’s whole life has been in pursuit of her experience underneath her pear tree – an experience of love and life that she constantly seeks to replicate. Janie’s tree of her memories and past, however is quite different that the pear tree that symbolized what she hoped her life would be. The tree of her memories doesn’t contain blossoms, but both suffering and joy. Looking back on her life, she sees that her dreams were more idealistic compared to what her life turned out to be.