Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 5 Quotes Page 1

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Quote 1

[Tony Taylor when Joe is made mayor]: "And now we’ll listen tuh uh few words uh encouragement from Mrs. Mayor Starks."

The burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor himself.

"Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but nah wife don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home." (5.107-109)

Joe, like many men, think that women do not have the intellectual capacity of men and should not be allowed to speak. He cuts short any chance for Janie to make herself heard because he considers a woman’s place not in the public eye, but in the privacy of the home. Joe jealousy guards Janie and wants her all to himself because he fears losing her.

Quote 2

She [Janie] had never thought of making a speech, and didn’t know if she cared to make one at all. It must have been the way Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one way or another that took the bloom off of things. But anyway, she went down the road behind him that night feeling cold. He strode along invested with his new dignity, thought and planned out loud, unconscious of her thoughts. (5.108)

The first sign of trouble in Janie’s second marriage comes when Joe completely cuts Janie off when she is invited to speak publicly. Though Janie does not really want to speak, she resents Joe for not even giving her the chance to reply. This quick silencing of Janie takes "the bloom off of things" or takes the romance – represented by Janie’s pear blossoms – out of the moment. This leaves her feeling "cold" when she should be flushed with warmth for love of Joe.

Quote 3

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)

Eatonville holds a double standard against Joe Starks. While they admire and envy his decadent wealth, they also resent that Joe flaunts it. He is, like his white-painted house, "gloaty." Joe Starks’ conspicuous wealth and home seem like an echo of slavery with Joe in many ways taking on the role as the wealthy plantation owner. With money in his hands, Joe is quite similar to wealthy white people, implying that conspicuous consumption and a domineering attitude is not restricted to whites, which the people of Eatonville might have at one point assumed. Being black, Joe is somewhat familiar and comforting to the people of Eatonville, but his behavior, which emulates white people, renders him alien. Thus he has "a familiar strangeness" that is odd enough to set people on edge.

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