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[Coker]: "Us colored folks is too envious of one ‘nother. Dat’s how come us don’t git o further than us do. Us talks about de white man keepin’ us down! Shucks! He don’t have tuh. Us keeps our own selves down." (5.72)
Coker makes the observation that it is not simply white people that put down black men. They do it to themselves, always gossiping about and envying one another and trying to limit each other’s success out of jealousy. Indeed, this jealousy between black folks is a recurring theme in the novel.
[after Joe buys two hundred acres of land from Captain Eaton]: "Ain’t never seen no sich uh colored man befo’ in all mah bawn days. He’s gointuh put up uh store and git uh post office from de Goven’ment." (5.69)
Coker and the rest of Eatonville is amazed at Joe’s wealth, ambition, and quick action. They expect such things out of a white man, not one of their own. In a way, Joe shows that your race doesn’t need to limit your ambition or economic success.
On the train the next day, Joe didn’t make many speeches with rhymes to her, but he bought her the best things the butcher had, like apples and a glass lantern full of candies. Mostly he talked about plans for the town when he got there…Janie took a lot of looks at him and she was proud of what she saw. Kind of portly like rich white folks. Strange trains, and people and places didn’t scare him neither. Where they got off the train at Maitland he found a buggy to carry them over to the colored town right away. (5.1)
It’s interesting that Janie associates confidence and ambition as uniquely white characteristics. Janie is proud of and attracted to Joe in part because he seems to break traditional racial boundaries – he stands out.