Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 5 Quotes
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Take for instance that new house of his. It had two stories with porches, with banisters and such things. The rest of the town looked like servants’ quarters surrounding the "big house." And different from everybody else in the town he put off moving in until it had been painted, in and out. And look at the way he painted it – a gloaty, sparkly white. The kind of promenading white that the houses of Bishop Whipple, W.B. Jackson and the Vanderpool’s wore. It made the village feel funny talking to him – just like he was anybody else. Then there was the matter of the spittoons. No sooner was he all set as the Mayor – post master – landlord – storekeeper, than he bought a desk like Mr. Hill or Mr. Galloway over in Maitland with one of those swing-around chairs to it. What with him biting down on cigars and saving his breath on talk and swinging round in that chair, it weakened people. And then he spit in that gold-looking vase that anybody else would have been glad to put on their front-room table. Said it was a spittoon just like his used-to-be bossman used to have in his bank up there in Atlanta. Didn’t have to get up and go to the door every time he had to spit. Didn’t spit on his floor neither. Had that golded-up spitting pot right handy. But he went further than that. He bought a little lady-size spitting pot for Janie to spit in. Had it right in the parlor with little sprigs of flowers painted all around the sides It took people by surprise because most of the women dipped snuff and of course had a spit-cup in the house. But how could they know up-to-date folks was spitting in flowery little things like that? It sort of made the rest of them feel that they had been taken advantage of. Like things had been kept from them. Maybe more things in the world besides spitting pots had been hid from them, when they wasn’t told no better than to spit in tomato cans. It was bad enough for white people, but when one of your own color could be so different it put you on a wonder. It was like seeing your sister turn into a ‘gator. A familiar strangeness. You keep seeing your sister in the ‘gator and the ‘gator in your sister and you’d rather not. There was no doubt that the town respected him and even admired him in a way. But any man who walks in the way of power and property is bound to meet hate. (5.130)
Though Joe is indeed mayor, he takes every opportunity to flaunt his superiority to the common townspeople. His house, unnecessarily big. The home is "gloaty" and "sparkly," implying a degree of arrogance and falseness that grates on the townspeople’s nerves. Similarly, the decorative spittoons that Joe busy for himself and Janie are pretentious shows of wealth, objects that humbler people would’ve cherished as vases. All this arrogance is made worse by the fact that Joe is undeniably black, a man who is supposed to be their equal. Joe seems to want everyone to envy him, and they do. Maybe he doesn’t realize that with envy comes hate as well as admiration.
"Maybe he [Joe] make her [Janie] do it [tie up her hair]. Maybe he skeered de rest of us mens might touch it round dat store." (5.144)
One of the gossiping townsfolk accidentally hits on the exact reason Joe is making Janie bind her hair up: he is jealous of other men touching Janie’s beautiful locks. However, the fact that the citizens do not recognize this immediately as the truth shows that they think highly of Joe; they consider him too secure in his own assets to fear anything from the other men.
[Hicks to Joe and Janie]: "You and yo’ daughter goin’ tuh join wid us in fellowship?" (5.8)
Janie’s loveliness and youth makes Hicks assume that she is Joe’s daughter, instead of his wife. This also highlights the age difference between Joe and Janie that will become crucial later.