In this book, compassion is unconditional sympathy for all manner of people, no matter what their flaws. Special attention is paid to how people treat "helpless things," entities that cannot defend or speak up for themselves – namely women, children, and animals. Closely tied to compassion is the concept of forgiveness, in which a person relinquishes any spite, ill will, or even memory of a crime committed against him. Compassion and forgiveness often go unnoticed in the novel, and those who give compassion and forgiveness without recognition are even more virtuous because they expect nothing in return.
Janie’s sympathy for "helpless things" stems from her position as a helpless woman under Joe’s reign.
Despite the many crimes committed against her, Janie is able to forgive everyone but Nanny because Nanny’s crime violates the virtue Janie holds most dearly: honesty.