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Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. (1.1-2)
For men, dreams are lofty and constantly out of reach. Men have no problem distinguishing reality from illusion. Women, on the other hand, live their dreams. They forget aspects of their lives that contradict their dreams such that they believe that their dreams are reality. Thus, women live far more idealistically than men. However, from Janie’s experience, we know that occasionally Janie realizes that her dream has died. She then seems to move on to live in another dream.
Every day after that they [Janie and Joe] managed to meet in the scrub oaks across the road and talk about when he would be a big ruler of things with her reaping the benefits. Janie pulled back a long time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance. (4.28)
Janie is leery of Joe because he does not represent the ideals of her dreams. "Sun-up" is a metaphor for hope while "pollen and blooming trees" represent sex and the subsequent possibility of new life. Joe represents something different for her future – ambition and fortune. In the end, Janie chooses the future that Joe offers over a predictable, isolated life with Logan.
Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just some thing she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. In a way she turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further. She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. (6.186)
The first time Joe beats Janie, her ideal and illusion of him is shattered. She realizes that his goodness was all an illusion to her, that Joe in reality "never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams," instead, she had just convinced herself that he was the man she wanted because he was a better alternative to Logan. This is an example of what we learn about women on the first page of the novel (1.2): women imagine their lives the way they want to see them, dismissing hints and experiences that indicate that their life isn’t congruent with their dreams. It takes Joe hitting Janie for her to realize that she was deluding herself. Now her vision for her future with Joe is dark and unpleasant, instead of holding "blossomy openings dusting