Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 5 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Joe]: "Ah told you in de very first beginnin’ dat Ah aimed tuh be uh big voice. You oughta be glad, ‘cause dat makes uh big woman outa you." (5.126)
Joe’s idea of becoming a "big voice" or having great influence in Eatonville means a rise in his rank and the respect he commands. To Joe, communication is synonymous with power and influence. It’s important to note that by denying Janie a voice, he is keeping her powerless.
That [Joe running a post office] irritated Hicks and he didn’t know why. He was the average mortal. It troubled him to get used to the world one way and then suddenly have it turn different. He wasn’t ready to think of colored people in post offices yet. (5.70)
Because Hicks is "the average mortal," Joe’s quick advancement into a position that only white men have previously occupied makes Hicks jealous. It defies his concept of what it means to be black and human; that Hicks is described as "mortal" implies that Joe is a god. Hick’s jealousy and uneasiness quickly turns into outward denial.
Janie soon began to feel the impact of awe and envy against her sensibilities. The wife of the Mayor was not just another woman as she had supposed. She slept with authority and so she was part of it in the town mind. She couldn’t get but so close to most of them in spirit. It was especially noticeable after Joe had forced through a town ditch to drain the street in front of the store. They had murmured hotly about slavery being over, but every man filled his assignment. (5.128)
As Janie explains, her marriage to the mayor of the town makes her a part of that authority in the eyes of the town, so the townspeople hold her at a distance. The people of Eatonville hold Janie to a double standard; they place her in a position of superiority but they also reserve the right to be bitterly jealous of her. The same goes for Joe. Such is the public mentality.