Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Chapter 7 Quotes
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Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible. The thing that Saul’s daughter had done to David. But Janie had done worse, she had cast down his empty armor before men and they had laughed, would keep on laughing. When he paraded his possessions hereafter, they would not consider the two together. They’d look with envy at the things and pity the man that owned them. When he sat in judgment it would be the same. Good-for-nothing’s like Dave and Lum and Jim wouldn’t change place with him. For what can excuse a man in the eyes of other men for lack of strength? Raggedy-behind squirts of sixteen and seventeen would be giving him their merciless pity out of their eyes while their mouths said something humble. There was nothing to do in life anymore. Ambition was useless. And the cruel deceit of Janie! Making all that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. (7.27)
Finally, Hurston links pride almost directly to masculinity. For men, there is a one-to-one correspondence between pride and masculinity. Janie’s act of publicly belittling Joe’s manhood is a metaphoric act of castration that Joe, and every other man present, is sensitive to. When a man of such pride as Joe loses his masculinity publicly at the hands of a "weak" woman, he loses everything. Thus, Joe characterizes Janie as a traitor.
Jody must have noticed it too. Maybe, he had seen it [his old age] long before Janie did, and had been fearing for her to see. Because he began to talk about her age all the time, as if he didn’t want her to stay young while he grew old. It was always "You oughta throw somethin’ over yo’ shoulders befo’ you go outside. You ain’t no young pullet no mo’. You’se uh old hen now."…If he thought to deceive her, he was wrong. For the first time she could see a man’s head naked of its skull. Saw the cunning thoughts race in and out through the caves and promontories of his mind long before they darted out of the tunnel of his mouth. She saw he was hurting inside so she let it pass without talking. (7.8)
Even though Joe’s malicious thoughts are transparent to Janie, she lets them pass because she has compassion for Joe and does not want him to suffer. This is, of course, a very quiet brand of compassion that is not noticed – much less reciprocated – by her arrogant, self-serving husband.