Janie lives with Joe for years in resigned silence. She gets no emotional support from Joe, and his wealth and the possessions he gives her are of no comfort.
Janie considers running away but feels trapped. She even realizes that she’s been with Joe half her life – she married him at 17 and is now 35.
She learns to imagine herself sitting underneath the comfort of a tree in summertime while she does her work and outwardly submits to Joe.
Joe’s age is beginning to show – he’s about thirteen years older than Janie – and to avert people’s attention from it, Joe piles more and more ridicule on Janie, making her out to be old and haggard. He calls her an "ole hen" and stuff like that.
Eventually Janie loses her temper and stands up to Joe in the store. She confronts him saying that he should stop pointing out how old she is all the time and maybe comment on himself once and a while.
When Joe continues to insult her, she hits him where it hurts, saying, "Talkin’ ‘bout me lookin’ old! When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life."
The men in the store say how they’d hate to hear that comment about themselves, which really destroys Joe’s pride. He can’t stand the thought of being pitied by the men of the town, whom he considers inferior to him.