Their Eyes Were Watching God
Freedom and Confinement Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store. And one night he had caught Walter standing behind and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it without Janie knowing what he was doing. Joe was at the back of the store and Walter didn’t see him. He felt like rushing forth with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand. That night he ordered Janie to tie up her hair around the store. That was all. She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others. (6.31)
Joe’s jealousy forces Janie to bind up one of her greatest displays of womanhood. This is one way that Joe traps Janie and keeps her from letting her true self, including her identity as a beautiful woman, be free.
[Janie to Joe] "Freein’ dat mule makes uh mighty big man outa you. Something like George Washington and Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, he had de whole United States tuh rule so he freed de Negroes. You got uh town so you freed uh mule. You have tuh have power tuh free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh something." (6.60)
Joe’s altruistic act, as pretentious as it was, of freeing a mule from a life of hard labor is akin – in Janie’s mind – to Lincoln emancipating the black slaves. It shows a degree of generosity rarely found in powerful men. But Joe’s display is just that – all show; he frees the mule to garner public admiration, not because he loves the animal. He does not show the same degree of compassion to his wife or his customers.
[Joe]: "Shet de door behind yuh, Janie. Lum is too busy wid de hawses."
After more shouting of advice and orders and useless comments, the town escorted the carcass off. No, the carcass moved off with the town, and left Janie standing in the doorway. (6.72-73)
Janie is confined in her house when she really wants to go off with the town and watch the mule’s fun funeral. Joe traps her by playing on her dignity and the image of the door shutting behind Janie as the town moves freely away emphasizes the degree of Janie’s immobility.