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[The porch gossips]: "What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid? – Thought she was going to marry? – Where he left her? – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs – Why she don’t stay in her class? – " (1.6)
The porch wants to confine Janie to a rigid and easily-definable category – through gender, social class, and age. The fact that she freely moves between high and low classes as well as male, female, and youthful types of dress makes her too ambiguous for the people to classify. And this fluidity between groups makes the townspeople uncomfortable.
Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn’t for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat’s one of de hold-backs of slavery. But nothing can’t stop you from wishin’. You can’t beat nobody down so low till you can rob ‘em of they will. Ah didn’t want to be used for a work-ox and a brood-sow and Ah didn’t want mah daughter used dat way neither. It sho wasn’t mah will for things to happen lak they did. Ah even hated de way you was born. But, all de same Ah said thank God, Ah got another chance. Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored women sittin’ on high, but they wasn’t no pulpit for me. Freedom found me wid a baby daughter in mah arms, so Ah said Ah’d take a broom and a cook-pot and throw up a highway through de wilderness for her. She would expound what Ah felt. But somehow she got lost offa de highway and next thing Ah knowed here you was in de world. So whilst Ah was tendin’ you of nights Ah said Ah’d save de text for you. Ah been waitin’ a long time, Janie, but nothin’ Ah been through ain’t too much if you just take a stand on high ground lak Ah dreamed." (2.56)
Slavery, obviously, is confining. It kept Nanny from fulfilling her dreams and taking action to bring black women more respect. However, though slavery physically shackled her, Nanny claims that it couldn’t chain up a person’s will and wishes.
The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off. (3.32)
Because her relationship with Logan is so ensnaring, Janie longs for freedom, away from her husband’s property and towards an unending horizon.