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Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through Georgy. Been workin’ for white folks all his life. Saved up some money – round three hundred dollars, yes indeed, right here in his pocket. Kept hearin’ ‘bout them buildin’ a new state down heah in Floridy and sort of wanted to come. But he was makin’ money where he was. But when he heard all about ‘em makin’ a town all outa colored folks, he knowed dat was de place he wanted to be. He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de sayso where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin’ de place dat colored folks was buildin’ theirselves. Dat was right too. De man dat built things oughta boss it. Let colored folks build thing too if dey wants to crow over somethin’. (4.16)
The entrepreneurial Joe has a very strong opinion about black folks. He thinks that, like white people, they should only take credit and pride in what they have built with their own hands. Joe means to be onboard when an all-black town arises because he sees that as his only way to be as influential a man as he wants to be. Joe’s way of coming to terms with the rigid, hierarchical, racist social structure of white towns is to live solely among people of his own race.
Janie pulled back a long time because he [Joe] did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance. (4.28)
Joe’s entire philosophy on life is to discount God and take your fate into your hands. He believes that men make their destinies, not some omnipotent powers-that-be. Joe represents the "far horizon […] change and chance" because he believes in striking out, full of ambition and making your way in the world.
It was a cityfied, stylish dressed man with his hat set at an angle that didn’t belong in these parts. His coat was over his arm, but he didn’t need it to represent his clothes. The shirt with the silk sleeveholders was dazzling enough for the world. He whistled, mopped his face and walked like he knew where he was going. He was a seal-brown color but he acted like Mr. Washburn or somebody like that to Janie. (4.14)
Janie is dazzled by this urbane pedestrian’s outfit and jaunty attitude. He seems as if he’s part of another world, one of material wealth and pretty clothes and oozing confidence. His social class seems to be above that of any other black person she’s ever met, so he’s intriguing.